Scriptural accounts are replete with examples of men and women receiving miraculous answers to prayer. We may think that receiving answers to our prayers means that the answer has to be showy and dramatic. Those types of answers, however, are the exception rather than the rule when it comes to receiving answers to your prayers. Doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often inadvertently referred to as the Mormon Church) says that while all of our prayers are certainly answered, those answers aren’t always easy to discern. More often than not, our answers to prayers come in small and simple ways.
God answers prayers through the power of the Holy Ghost (sometimes called the Spirit). The Spirit speaks to each of us in different ways, ways that are as varied as we are. What may resonate with one person may not make much of an impact with someone else. We must practice listening to the Spirit so that we can know when and how He speaks to us.
While each of us will feel the promptings of the Holy Ghost differently, there are some consistencies with how He speaks to us. If what you’re praying for is right—if the decision you want to make is in line with God’s will—you will feel at peace. In the Doctrine and Covenants (a collection of modern revelations given to the Prophet Joseph Smith) Heavenly Father says that “you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore you shall feel that it is right” (9:8) While this “burning” may be hard to describe on paper, when you feel it you will know that it is God’s confirmation of your choice.
Sometimes, though, your answer will be no. In that same section of the Doctrine and Covenants, God says that “if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong” (9:9). This “stupor of thought” will mean that you are still confused and uneasy about the situation you are praying about.
Once when I was in college, I wanted to participate in a study abroad program. I was praying to find the means to go, but I could never decide on the best way to fund my trip. Eventually I realized that I was having a stupor of thought and that if things weren’t lining up, then perhaps I shouldn’t even be going. Once I decided not to go on the trip, I felt at peace and another plan for the summer presented itself to me.
Sometimes Answers Don’t Come Quickly
You may find yourself in a situation where you are desperately seeking for answers and coming up short. This absence of answers doesn’t mean that God doesn’t care about you or that He isn’t listening. Rather, these experiences mean that you have something to learn before finding your answer. In lieu of the answers you seek, Heavenly Father will often send comfort and other blessings to help you in your trial.
Know that eventually God will provide you with the answers you’re looking for. It may take months or even years to receive those answers, but they will always come. Sometimes you need to change your prayer to find answers. Instead of asking for something to happen, pray that you will have the strength to handle the situation. By adjusting your prayers in times of trial, you will find answers that may not remove your trial, but that will make you capable of handling it.
God Wants to Teach Us
Sometimes when we don’t get answers, it’s because God is trusting our ability to make the right choice. Elder Richard G. Scott, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in The Church of Jesus Christ, said the following about prayer (I recommend reading the talk in full):
What do you do when you have prepared carefully, have prayed fervently, waited a reasonable time for a response, and still do not feel an answer? You may want to express thanks when that occurs, for it is an evidence of His trust. When you are living worthily and your choice is consistent with the Savior’s teachings and you need to act, proceed with trust. As you are sensitive to the promptings of the Spirit, one of two things will certainly occur at the appropriate time: either the stupor of thought will come, indicating an improper choice, or the peace or the burning in the bosom will be felt, confirming that your choice was correct. When you are living righteously and are acting with trust, God will not let you proceed too far without a warning impression if you have made the wrong decision.
One of the purposes of prayer is to help us learn to become more like our Savior, and so God uses prayer and the answers to our prayers to teach us how to develop Christlike qualities and make Christlike decisions.
God Uses Other People to Answer Prayers
More often than not, God will not come down to earth to personally answer our prayers, especially if those prayers require a practical and tangible answer. He will often answer our prayers through the actions of others. Many times in my life, I have had a prayer answered through the words of another. Because God uses other people to answer our prayers, we need to make sure that we are in a state wherein we can receive and act on spiritual promptings so that we can likewise be the answer to others’ prayers.
Wherever you are and whatever you face, know that God does always answer His children’s prayers. He hears every one and will, in His time, answer every one as well. Trust in Heavenly Father’s love for you, come to know the Holy Ghost, and you will never be led astray.