“Getting Answers from the Lord,” For the Strength of Youth, June 2021, 26–27.
Have you ever asked God a question and felt that He didn’t answer your prayer? I know I have—and it was difficult to understand why. But that doesn’t mean God’s not listening. In fact, He hears and answers all our prayers (see Matthew 7:7–8). Sometimes it just takes time and work for us to understand His answers.
Here are three principles to consider that will help you receive answers from the Lord and recognize them when they come.
If you’re like me, you don’t like to wait for answers when you have a question. I love being able to turn to Google, Siri, or Alexa and get an immediate answer.
But the Lord doesn’t usually work that way. Sometimes He waits until we’re ready. Even the Prophet Joseph Smith often had to wait for answers to his prayers. In 1833 many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were living in Jackson County, Missouri, USA. However, in November of that year, mobs drove them out of the county. Joseph was troubled. He asked the Lord why it had happened. The Lord didn’t answer that question right away, but He comforted Joseph, saying, “Be still and know that I am God.”1 The rest of the answer came the following month (see Doctrine and Covenants 101).
When my prayers aren’t answered right away, I gain strength from knowing that even prophets sometimes have to wait. If we have faith and trust in the Lord’s timing like Joseph, the Lord will answer our prayers in His own time. And sometimes we may have to wait a really long time.
President Russell M. Nelson taught, “The Lord loves effort, and effort brings rewards.”2 When you think about it, that applies to everything we do. Effort is necessary to strengthen muscles and to learn new skills.
The same principle applies to receiving answers from the Lord. Alma the Younger saw an angel, but that experience alone wasn’t enough. His testimony of Jesus Christ and His Atonement became stronger only after he had “fasted and prayed many days” (Alma 5:46).
Think about Joseph Smith and the First Vision. Joseph didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to ask God which church to join. He’d actually been struggling with his question for two years.3 He had worked really hard to find answers, and when he was ready, Heavenly Father answered him.
When I was younger, I thought God answered prayers only in certain ways. A lot of people cry when they bear their testimony, and I thought if I wasn’t crying, the Spirit wasn’t speaking to me. Or if I didn’t have a burning in the bosom like the Lord described to Oliver Cowdery (see Doctrine and Covenants 9:8), I thought I wasn’t feeling the Spirit.
But I’ve learned that God speaks to each of us in different and personal ways. The key for me was learning what those ways are. In the New Testament, Paul taught about how the Spirit can make us feel: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Galatians 5:22–23). The Holy Ghost can use any of those feelings to communicate with us.
And answers from the Holy Ghost are often quiet and simple. They can sometimes come “quickly, completely, and all at once,” like turning on a light in a dark room, as Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has taught. But more frequently they come like a sunrise—“a gradual increase of light”—or like light on a foggy day. We receive enough direction to take just a few steps forward.4 So look again, and make sure that God hasn’t given you an answer that you didn’t recognize because you expected something else.
“Does God really want to speak to you?” President Russell M. Nelson has asked. “Yes!”5 If we are patient and put in the necessary work, we will receive answers to our prayers. Until those answers come, we can trust in the Lord and keep moving forward. The Lord told Joseph Smith, “Be still and know that I am God” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:16). That counsel can comfort us as well.