It Started With a Prayer
A young teenager by the name of Joseph Smith worried about his salvation. He would go to revival meetings during the Second Great Awakening hearing that every one needs to be saved. But Joseph didn’t know how to be saved. He heard accounts from other people that they would walk into the forest to pray, and they would then receive angelic visitations.
Joseph eventually came to a verse in James.
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
This verse struck Joseph! He knew he lacked wisdom. And the verse testified that God would answer. So Joseph decided to pray for his sins to be forgiven. He needed to quench his spiritual thirst for forgiveness. Little did Joseph realize at the time, he would witness a magnificent vision in a beautiful spring grove. As part of this vision, Joseph was told that his sins were forgiven and Joseph was instructed to not join a church.
This pattern of concern, scripture study, and prayer would repeat through out the Restoration. Joseph Smith would later restore to the earth the Gospel of Jesus Christ, priesthood keys, holy ordinances and covenants, the original organization of the Church, and much more.
A Patient Relationship
A long time ago, I was a wee little lad in a big family. So many people were running around the house. Personalities collided with each other. One of those collisions was between my brother Joseph and I. We did not get a long very well. There would be many arguments and insults between us, and on rare occasion a fist fight.
I would go to my mother, and ask her why living with Joseph was so hard. My mother would counsel me to pray for Joseph. And so I did. I prayed day after day. Nothing happened to better the relationship between Joseph and I. I started to give up.
In a hasty decision of a little kid, I sent off an email to my older siblings that were out of the house asking what to do with Joseph. In that same email I expressed that prayer wasn’t working. I got some responses back, and they encouraged me in my situation.
A little while later, my mother meets with me. I was in trouble. She begins to grill me. She taught me to keep faith and patience in prayer. My hasty decision wasn’t going to help my relationship with my brother at all.
And so I let it go. I ignored my brother, and he ignored me. We hardly talked with each other, except for the occasional match up in a video game. There was still small tension between us. Eventually, we went with our church group to a Philmont hiking trek.
During one point of the trek, the members of the group started to share their feelings with each other. My brother stood up and expressed so much appreciation for this trek. He also mentioned that him and I did not have the best relationship, but now things were changing. We had been able to talk a bit more. I stood up and expressed the same. It seems like the prayer of a little kid was coming true.
Reluctance to an Answer
This happened to me recently. I had received three job offers for a middle level developer position. I declined one job, so I was left to decide between two offers. I didn’t know which one to pick. I wanted to make sure that this is a permanent position; one that I could stay for 5 or more years. I knew I had to pray. While praying one job felt like it was a good pick. But I didn’t accept it. I was reluctant to accept that job because the other jobs seemed good too.
So I kept praying and praying. I did feel on occasion again to accept the one job that felt good. But I didn’t. I had supposed that I would get a pretty clear distinction on what to do, clearer that what I had received already. I started to get more stressed and anxious. I went on several walks to clear my head, and that one job still came back to my mind.
A call was arranged for me to talk with people from both companies that offered me jobs. The first conversation was with the company I didn’t think I should work at. During that conversation, it was brought to my attention that they were a bit frustrated with me because I was taking so long for an answer. They told me that they would reconsider the job offer if I wasn’t serious. I expressed that I needed the time to decide between different job opportunities.
I then talked with an employee from the other company, and he was totally chill. He said it was a professional work environment with a great manager. And I did not receive any pressure there to make a decision.
So, I stood around in my apartment simulating which job I would be in. Gradually, I conceded and I told myself to accept the one job that I believe I should work at. Then all the stress came loose and I was done with that decision. Right after I had finally decided to jump to a decision, the other company with the job offer called and said that they rescinded the offer.
How curious. I had to decide to take one job to get that “clear” answer I was searching for. Did I want to pressure God into giving me a clearer answer before I decided on a job? That couldn’t happen, because God is, well, God. What could I do to pressure Him?
What Prayer is and What Prayer is Not
In the podcast on the First Vision narrated by Spencer McBride, a historian of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a guest told him that a core principle learned from the First Vision is that God answers prayers, even that of a distressed 14 year old boy.
The Everlasting and Almighty God, the Creator of this vast universe, will speak to those who approach Him with a sincere heart and real intent.
He will speak in a way that is unmistakable and that transcends human experience. He will give them divine direction and answers for their personal lives.
Dieter F. Uchtdorf, October 2014
The Infinite has the capcity to listen to any prayer. God speaks to His children when His children come to Him in sincere prayer. And the manner of which He will speak to His children is very identifiable, and He will answer questions of the soul. Most of the time God will answer by way of the Holy Ghost.
However, there is the possibility that someone may not be ready or even acknowledge the answer, similar to the experiences that I had previously told.
My good relationship with my brother Joseph probably didn’t come until later because I needed to learn the objective of prayer from my mother. And I probably needed to know what it was like to be patient as God worked to teach my brother and me. God was waiting for us to be better people. God wasn’t going to take away my brother’s will or mine for the sake of a good relationship. God knew that it would be fair more valuable that my brother and I learned something from this experience.
Or when I didn’t accept the job that felt good to me. I was waiting upon God to give me a clearer answer. In reality, God was waiting for me to decide to further confirm the prompting I had been given.
God is the master, and I am one of His subjects. I believe that He trusts me to act for my own welfare, while still including Him for counsel. He was able to give me counsel all the times I was distressed. I think that my relationship with God through prayer is an equal balance of receiving counsel from God and acting on that counsel. Will I be like one of the righteous stewards in the parable of the talents? I hope so.
No, the purpose of [prayer] is not to change God’s will but to empower us to act on God’s will. [Prayer] is trust—trust that God sees what we cannot and that He knows what we do not. Sometimes, trusting our own vision and judgment is not enough.
Dieter F. Uchtdorf, October 2016
Even though the children of God are encouraged to pray for what they want, like answers to a question or for a situation to come true, that does not mean that God will give it in the way we want, if He gives it at all. Prayer is meant to secure certain blessings that God is already willing to give, but the prayerful needs to work for it (Prayer, Bible Dictionary). The prayerful must be willing to act on the promptings they receive and trust those promptings to be from God. The prayerful must realize that they are still subjected to what God wants for him or her.
Heavenly Father Cares
God cares about you. He will listen, and He will answer your personal questions. The answers to your prayers will come in His own way and in His own time, and therefore, you need to learn to listen to His voice. God wants you to find your way back to Him, and the Savior is the way. God wants you to learn of His Son, Jesus Christ, and experience the profound peace and joy that come from following the path of divine discipleship.
Dieter F. Uchtdorf, October 2014
Heavenly Father cares. He is also a Father. He loves, cares, provides, and protects His children. He knows every single inhabitant of the Earth, and He wishes for us to counsel with Him as we learn. To include Him, it is best to learn how to listen to the Holy Ghost. As President Nelson invited recently, learn how to “Hear Him!”. God has prepared so much for those that love Him and follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.
The Restoration is one of those examples to show how God cares. Through the Restoration, so much knowledge is given to God’s children. All of this knowledge has the design and intent to teach God’s children.
So if you feel small and weak, please simply come unto Christ, who makes weak things strong. The weakest among us, through God’s grace, can become spiritually strong, because God “is no respecter of persons.” He is our “faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments.”
It is my conviction that if God can reach out and sustain a poor German refugee from a modest family in a war-torn country half a world away from the headquarters of the Church, then He can reach out to you.
Dieter F. Uchtdorf, April 2015
As mortal beings, we are naturally weak. We like to be confident in our own ability. And a lot of times we are trusted by God to do something on our own! Even then, God will help everyone, no matter the circumstance. He will love those that love Him.
I have often found myself scared in unfamiliar situations. I was scared of fights and being teased. I was scared walking around the streets of Chile. I was scared as I drove across Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. I know what being scared of life feels like. And in all those situations, I did find myself praying. And God did help me in unique ways. If He can pay attention to me then He can pay attention to anyone else.
A very important thing to learn from the Restoration, is that God answers prayers. He will visit the person who is worrying about a question. He will teach that person in a certain way that is unique to that person. That person needs to make sure that they are willing to listen, to observe, and to act on what they have received. Then something beautiful happens. A child is actively listening and acting upon the counsel given from Heavenly Father.