The Prayers of Many

Like many good LDS women I have suffered with heavy-duty fertility issues. Not so much fertility as just staying pregnant the entire nine months. If it seems like doctors don’t know much about how to help a women get pregnant, they know even less about how to keep a woman pregnant.  But this post isn’t about my reproductive woes.  Only to say that by the end of my experience my soul had been scrubbed raw.  There are many mentions of “the refiner’s fire” in the scriptures, but not being a jeweler or blacksmith, those metaphors don’t really connect with me.  Since my day is filled with dirty dishes and more dirty dishes, I picture my spirit being scrubbed with an unseen S.O.S. pad.  By the end of my infertility saga my soul was standing there pale and pink and very sore.  But great trials have great lessons if we open our hearts and heads and let the Lord speak to us.

This is what the Lord told me: “I want you to be happy, but I know you better than you know yourself. I know what will make you happy in the long run. “ And I said to Him, “OK, Lord.  I trust you.  I know you’ll do what’s right for me.”

Isn’t that nice?  What a happy ending.

Here is the weird thing that happened, though. I started to wonder, really wonder, about the nature of prayer.  There are many facets of prayer and most of them I believe in with all my heart.  Obviously I believe in two-way communication between myself and God. The part that has me a bit flummoxed is praying for good things to happen: for someone to be healed; for a husband to get a job; for a healthy baby. 

Remember, the conclusion I came to after The Great Baby Trial was that the Lord is mindful of my needs.  He will do what’s best.  So what’s the point of praying?  He’s going to make sure things work out for the best because that’s what He does, right? Let Go and let God, and that sort of thing.  We learn in Spirituality 101 that the Lord is boss.  He’s the King. Our job is to take His suggestions, not the other way around.

Where does prayer fit in?  And fasting too, for that matter. The Bible Dictionary, that unsung hero of the quad combination, has given me a clue:  “The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that  God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them.” 

That makes sense to me. But what if someone is having a problem that many people are praying for?  Is there some sort of quota that God has already determined we must meet before he will answer the prayer?  For example, a man in my ward has cancer.  He prays that he will be healed.  His wife prays that he will be healed. Is there some sort of magic number of prayers that must be prayed on this man’s behalf before he will be healed?  It’s hard to imagine that our Father in Heaven is thinking, “only three more prayers and then I’ll heal Brother Jones.” 

So if there is not a prayer quota, then what is the purpose of many people praying? Does the quantity really make a difference? If the Lord is already mindful of our needs, what will the difference be if more people pray?

My soul tends to think there must be a difference because it seems so right to pray for someone who is in need.  Common sense would say the more prayers the better. But why is this?  Is it really better?  Does it help more?  Do more prayers get a better result?  If the Stake President gets sick and has the entire Stake fasting and praying, will there be more blessings showered upon him than there would be on an older widow that not many people know or are praying for?

 I hope that my prayers make a difference. Maybe my prayers won’t change the will of God, but are only meant to change me. To make me aware of the needs and problems of those around me.  To help me be of service in whatever small way I can.  To feel a connection to my fellow brothers and sisters as we unite in a common cause.

I just really don’t know. Honestly, I don’t.

 

About Hildie

(Blog Team) was born and raised in Detroit, but is happy to call Austin, TX home now. She majored in Art History and Geography at BYU and graduated a week before having her first baby. There have been five more babies since then. Hildie is an avid baker and tries to fatten up the people she loves. After years of "Mommy this", "Mommy that" Hildie is delighted to finally be waking her brain up for some other use.

32 thoughts on “The Prayers of Many

  1. I think you hit the nail on the head with “Maybe my prayers won’t change the will of God, but are only meant to change me.” The sentence from the BD entry right before the one you quoted reads: “Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other.” And then it goes on to say what you’ve said here–it ain’t God’s will that’s doing the changing.

  2. I have had all of these thoughts as well, and I also have not come to any satisfactory conclusion. The notion of more prayers = more blessings for an individual doesn’t jibe with my notion of a just, merciful God. And yet, I know that prayer is real.
    Whenever I’m at MD Anderson for appointments, I look around at all the different people there, all facing incredible challenges and sorrow. Some clearly have lots of support (and presumably prayers) from family and friends. Others, I can tell are all alone. Does God love one more than the other? I don’t think so.
    You may be right in that the main purpose of praying for others is to make us more mindful of the needs of those around us, to make us more compassionate and sensitive. But that still leaves me feeling a little hollow, particularly when we have ward fasts for individuals. Is it really a ward fast just to help each of us become more compassionate, with no real benefit to the individual in question?
    But I’m equally bothered when I hear testimonies of others attributing a particular outcome to faith, fasting, prayers. Does that mean for those of us who do not get the outcome we so desperately want, that we did not have enough faith, fasting, prayers? I find it hard to believe that God would leave something as monumental as life and death up to the whims of people who may or may not pray or fast for someone else.
    I’ve decided this is something I will shelve for now. I will continue to pray for others and to pray for myself. I try to pray for more appropriate things, like for peace and acceptance rather than a particular outcome, but sometimes I will pray for a particular outcome as well.
    Someday it will make sense, and until then I try not to think too much about it.

  3. Very nice post.

    A couple of years ago I was going through a very stressful and difficult experience, but I knew that there was someone who loved me who was praying for me daily. It was the first time that I had literally felt the strength from someone else’s prayer. From this expereince my testimony of the power of prayer was strengthened. I think that even if we do not understand everything about prayer, we can take strength knowing that it does help.

  4. I have no answers to your questions–this is not something I worry about–I simply know it is good for me to be aware of and pray for those I love and those in need and I hope doing so blesses their lives in whatever way they need. I know it certainly blesses mine.

    But as we are one of those families who has countless prayers on our behalf at the moment, I can say that regardless of the outcome of our particular situation I know we have been blessed and carried by all of those prayers over the past six weeks. And I will be eternally grateful.

  5. This is such a good question. I have felt myself holding back a bit when praying for a child or loved one for fear that if I give my full faith to the idea of healing and they don’t recover I will lose my faith and trust in the Lord. I feel better praying that I (or they) will be strengthened to get through the trial. That prayer has always been answered.

  6. I think we pray for things, not knowing if the blessing is just waiting to be asked for or if it isn’t coming at all. We have to exercise faith that either way, we will accept it as the Lord’s will.

    As for praying and fasting for others, like Katie and dalene said, sometimes the person doesn’t necessarily get the outcome they want, but they get the support and strength they need. Like if you are sick, not every person can visit every day, but they are praying every day, so you still get the uplifted and loved feelings. (Don’t know if that made any sense…)

  7. I’m a brand-new reader to this blog and it’s amazing that this was one of the first posts I’ve read. It’s like you had read my mind and wrote all my thoughts down. I have struggled with this issue so many times! I love praying and the way I feel when I pray, but I’ve struggled with the logic of it all. My father-in-law regularly comments that his wife has “prayed him safely through” many situations. So does that mean when I furiously and whole-heartedly pray for my husband to do well on a test at school and he ends up failing that I wasn’t praying faithfully enough? Why can’t I “pray him through” his test? Maybe my frustration comes not from the principle of prayer (because I do love the Bible Dictionary definition) but from the way others choose to talk about their answered prayers. Maybe my father-in-law should say something like “Heavenly Father chose to answer all those prayers my wife said for me because it was part of his plan.” Or something.

  8. I think that one way prayer works is that sometimes there are things we want to communicate to another person’s heart that we can’t say with words or even actions. That’s where I pray that my children will feel the depth of my love for them, or for someone who’s struggling with their faith to feel the love of those around them as they are struggling to feel God’s love.

  9. These last couple of weeks I have had a strong lesson learned regarding prayer. My husband has had issues with prescription medication, I’ve had to take him to the emergency room once, he’s passed out in front of me and my kids several times, I’ve had to pick him up from work because his boss didn’t know what was going on with him. He suffers from depression, issues with anxiety, and has an addictive personality. Last month he was arrested for a DUI, and I was so happy, because I thought, and still hoping, that this is his bottom point. Because of this we are paying lots of fees; attorney, impound, drivers license. So for the last several weeks we, and other family members, have been praying and fasting that he would be able to keep his license, but we just found out 3 days ago that it has been revoked. So I have to now drive him to work. I live around North Ogden and he works in the international center by the airport it takes me 50 minutes one way. His hours are 1:30 pm to 10 pm. I have 3 kids. I was quite bitter and thought that he was the one that had the issue, his license was revoked, but now I am the one being punished, while he gets shuttle service everywhere. While driving to his work I was reflecting on the prayers and fasting that we did, but then I had the impression that sometimes the Lord allows things to happen but not so much for the sinner but those who around. This is as much of a trial for me to see how I would serve my husband during these difficult times. Upon more reflection I reflected on Christ, knowing that He is sinless yet he has taken my sins upon him, even though I am the sinner, because he loves me. My goal is to follow his example, and even if I wasn’t the one that sinned I must help my husband with his trials. From my experiences I have learned to trust in the Lord, his answers will come, he knows before hand what we need, but he needs to see our commitment to him and to those around us that need our help. I hope that maybe my experience has helped somewhat with your questions, if it hasn’t, it sure is nice to get it off my chest.

  10. I’ve stuggled with similar feelings. How do we pray for what our heart hopes for without feeling like we’re telling the Lord that we know what’s best?

    Sometimes I think prayer is more for the person praying rather than those we pray for. It brings the pray-er closer to those she prays for and to God. Maybe it helps us to be more mindful of others at the same time it helps us to be more aware of our blessings.

  11. there are things i never pray for because i’m too embarrassed to ask for them, and i tell myself that whatever the Lord wants to happen is going to happen, regardless of what i asked for. the bible dictionary has proven me wrong.

    i feel like a fool now. an ungrateful, block-headed fool. i am sad for the time and blessings i have lost.

  12. So many good questions and comments. Who can say really? God commands us, “never cease to pray, pray in your fields, pray in your closets” etc. Whether or not it’s a quota thing or a faith thing or a communication thing, it must be important enough for us to be commanded to do regularly. I do think it’s mostly for our benefit and training but I also like to think that Heavenly Father likes his kids to call home and just tell Him what’s going on personally.

  13. I think our prayers can change the course of things… if nothing else, as Dalene said, I know that people feel strengthened when others pray for them.

    I love your musings; I have wondered about them too. As always when I think about prayers being answered, I wonder about the nature of angels, and how angelic ministration fits into all of this.

    Thank you for this.

  14. I’m a new reader, like Natalie, and your post expresses my feelings, too.

    For several years I prayed and fasted that I’d be able to finish my research and get out of graduate school. I know, not exactly a fundamental need. But it was extremely important to me, because being in school was putting a huge strain on my marriage, my finances, and my ability to be the kind of mom I wanted to be. I though about dropping out, but my husband wanted me to finish and I didn’t want to disappoint him. Long story short, my prayers were not answered. I graduated, but I limped through the final hoops with no successful research project – and it took a LONG time to finally get it done. I had great faith that God would answer my prayers, and I was so disappointed that He didn’t that I actually quit praying for a while.

    My conclusion is that prayers do not change the course of things if God has other plans. But the scriptures are replete with directives to pray. What is the point? I truly believe there is a reason to pray, but I’m struggling to find out what it is. While faith promoting at the time, I think the many testimonies I’ve heard over the years of people saying their prayers made things better have not helped when my own experience doesn’t confirm that. If the point of praying is to change ME, then I can’t see a reason to pray for anything other than peace, faith, understanding, and the companionship of the spirit.

  15. Oh, Jennie, I’ve struggled mightily with this one too. I’ve gone round and round wondering what is more righteous–to pray the prayer of unwavering faith, or to pray the prayer of thy will be done??

    I know that prayer should contain a little bit of both, but during times in my life when I really really wanted something to change or happen (like during my own struggle with infertility, or when my four year old daughter was stuttering so badly she couldn’t hold a conversation) it was hard to be philosophical and circumspect about things. I wanted ACTION.

    So I would pray, “Thy will be done.” But then I would wonder if that was a cop out. Would God listen to me better –would he be more moved to action–if I had the moving-mountains kind of faith? If I prayed the prayers that said, “This is my righteous desire and I know you will grant it to me?”

    But then when I prayed those prayers, I felt like I wasn’t trusting God enough, and was leaning to my own understanding. So in one prayer, I wasn’t exercising enough faith. The other prayer, I wasn’t exercising enough humility and patience. I went round and round.

    And I still don’t have an answer, to be honest. I simply continue to pray and know that God hears me. And I did end up having full-term babies (4 of them) and miscarriages (4 of them), and my daughter’s stuttering did subside. Did the number of prayers I prayed, or the kind of prayers I prayed, have bearing on either of these outcomes? I don’t know, to be honest. I just don’t know. But the act of praying and coming to God did give me peace while in the midst of those trials.

    And as far as the collective power of prayer, I do believe that it has a healing energy, both for those who are praying and those who are being prayed for. But I also know that the most powerful answer to prayer I’ve ever heard of came to a 14 year old boy, all by himself, who’d never prayed aloud.

  16. I am constantly asking myself these questions. Particularly after my uncle died two and a half years ago. It made me wonder what the point is of praying for someone’s safety if nothing is really in your control. If there are blessings available to us contingent on our asking, I must be missing out on many blessings simply because I don’t know to ask for them! That seems odd to me.
    I do know prayer is important. And I have gained incredible strength and comfort during difficult times through prayer, but I have no idea what the point is of asking for things in prayer (particularly when you are asking for something for someone else).
    I’m glad to read others’ thoughts on this sticky (for me) subject.

  17. I have had these exact thoughts and questions. It’s good to know I’m not alone here. The Lord knows what is best for us. But he wants to see us ask, to show faith and learn humility. I think those are two of the hardest things to learn in life. I’m still working on both, that’s for sure.

  18. This is a really intersting topic. And one of those spritual gray areas that make me glad I’m not an intellectual who HAS to know the answers to things in order to believe. But I can say this on the topic: a few years ago I had an epiphone regarding prophets performing miracles (moving mountains, healing the sick, calling down lighting to strike people, etc.). I realized that it wasn’t so much that these men had power to MAKE God do whatever they asked. It’s that they had such good communication with God that they knew what he wanted them to do. Then asking for it was just a formality. God would never have allowed those men to reach the level of power they were at w/o knowing that they would respect and honor His will in all things. So before Moses parted the Red Sea, he probably prayed and asked God what to do, and God said, I want you to part the Red Sea. And then Moses prayed aloud and seemed to command the Sea to part. But really, he was just doing what God wanted him to do. So I think that may be what prayer is for. Not to ask for things. Not to pray things into being. But to open up the lines of communication so that we can ask God what HIS will is for the given situation. And then to do it and be at peace with it. sometimes his will may be for a person to get healed. And sometimes not. So perhaps the situations where people’s prayers are answered are not those in which the most people had the most faith to make it happen, but those in which the people were praying for that which was already God’s will. So maybe if we all prayed for guidance rather than a specific result, and listened hard enough, we’d know what outcome to pray for before we started. We’d waste less time being disappointed by the outcome, and instead focus our prayers on helping people have comfort and endure what was the Lord’s will. I don’t know. What do you think?

  19. While I don’t know the answer to your specific questions about how many people need to pray before a prayer is answered, I don’t think it’s always true that the Lord ONLY blesses us with His will, however it’s always more beneficial if we listen to His will to begin with. For example, Joseph Smith and the 116 pages. He asked over and over if he could show those pages to Martin Harris, the answer was no…FINALLY the Lord said yes–reluctantly, which almost doesn’t seem possible–and of course the result was horrible and the prophet was rebuked. It was to teach Joseph a lesson in listening and accepting the first answer, the first time.

    Additionally I think there is also this huge matter of faith. There have been people who have been healed specifically due to the faith of others AND of course it was in alignment with Heavenly Father’s will. I guess I view things differently, but to me it totally makes sense that someone who was not absolutely needed in Heaven but who’s life was suddenly on the line (for example) could be healed if asked with proper faith…yes if it was their “time to go” I don’t think any amount of faith could change that, but like many choices in life–where should we move? what school should I attend? who should I marry?– I think even death could have multiple “times” that could work into the great scheme of things–and that prayer could certainly be a part of that deciding factor. Of course it would be ridiculous for me to speculate on any situation that I didn’t have special insight to–like “oh if they would have prayed harder, so and so would have lived.” I don’t think any of us has the right to do that, but I guess I could see where prayer could influence great decisions, even death.

    Also, I see God–being the merciful being He is–will often choose to do whatever will turn more people’s hearts toward Him in any given situation. There are scriptural accounts where certain prophets were saved from an awful death, and certain accounts where prophets were not. I’ve often wondered what the difference was, why one prophet would be spared a grisly death and another would not be spared…and my conclusion is that it depends on which situation would be more beneficial to His great plan in the long run….His great plan being to “bring about the immortality and eternal life of man.” Sometimes death touches us in a way that only death can… and I definitely see prayer as an influencing factor.

    Of course this is just my personal speculation…hope I didn’t offend anyone.

  20. This is something I’ve thought about a lot. I’ve had a testimony of prayer since I was very young. I had prayers answered then and continued to have them answered so my testimony only grew.

    Isn’t it interesting how we have experiences that then have us looking at things so we gain new understanding. When my daughter was sick I didn’t question prayer or whether the Lord was there. I knew he was.

    I did wonder many other things though, some similar to those expressed in your post. I didn’t know what to pray for. I had an added thought – if he knows our needs – what am I doing repeating them? I knew there was more to this communication. What was supposed to develope from my asking? If not everyone is going to be healed, and I know that death does happen, then how am I to know when I’m imposing my will for healling to be the answer?

    I know my best prayers are when I stop to listen to see what I should pray about. Often I have felt inspiration as to whom I should include,why and even what to say. And I do generally keep the conversation going until I run out of “thoughts” so to speak. The times when I do this I feel I’m not just saying what I wanted to say or how I want it to be but allowing the Lord to help me know how it will be even as I’m praying.

    We also have to be willing to accept how the answer comes. I recently fasted and prayed for something – I could not have forseen how it was to come about though and it wasn’t painless. But he did answer my prayer.

  21. I just wanted to say thank you for this post. Recently one of my dear friends has been critically ill and in the hospital. I have had all of these questions about prayer before, but have felt them more urgently during this time. It helps me to know that I’m at least not alone in my lack of understanding some of these principles!

  22. Wow! Thank you for a very thought-provoking post and comments.

    —-Jennie, I LOVE the SOS pad analogy. And I too have wondered A LOT about the prayer quota thing, especially as related to the role of temple prayer rolls. I think the phrase most often used there is something like “grant them the blessings they need.”

    —-Angela, I love the reminder of Joseph Smith’s lone prayer. And I think we all struggle with
    “thy will be done.” Neal Maxwell wanted so much to be submissive that he resisted praying to be healed of his cancer. His wife was going crazy because of his resignation. But he needed to be healed, and eventually was the first time so he could serve several more years before the cancer returned.

    —-My mother-in-law has a great equivilent way of praying “thy will be done”. She says, “Please bless us with such-and-such OR SOMETHING BETTER.” She uses this in all sorts of practical situations. I once saw a grumpy rental car employee suddenly offer an amazing package that overmet our needs after she prayed this.

    —-Arianne: Yes! The Book of Moses does say that when Moses was called, he was told that he would be stronger than many waters…kind of like his patriarchal blessing set up in advance one of the solutions for him…he knew his mission.

    —-It seems possible to loosely categorize prayers (with plenty of overlap, exceptions, additions, etc.) into several categories.

    CATEGORY A. Prayers for the lessening or abatement of conditions central to mortality: i.e. sickness, death, pain, infertility, poverty, etc. Since we came to earth specifically to experience [good and evil, pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow,] etc. then obviously the immediate, affirmative answer to all of these prayers would cheat us out of exactly what we came to learn. ULTIMATELY ALL of these prayers will be answered by Christ’s gift to us of resurrection. But in the meantime, it seems to me that the occasional granting of this kind of prayer serves several purposes: 1) to build our faith in his ULTIMATE ability to heal; 2) to remind us that he hears us and “is mindful of us” and loves us; and maybe 3) to unite us in love as we petition, and then in joy and faith when it can be granted. As you have all expressed above, I have no idea how heaven determines which of these prayers to grant and which to defer/delay until resurrection. This area of praying seems the most painful because it inherently tests our faith.

    CATEGORY B. Prayers for spiritual gifts and blessings like strength, insight, submissiveness, charity, and so on. We seem to largely agree that these are nearly always granted, though with some variability as to timing and methods.

    CATEGORY C. Prayers for the Lord to influence another person’s feelings, emotions, or agency. This seems related to categories A and B above, but I don’t have any other special insight about it except to acknowledge it. (Camille, when you resolve it, write us another post!)

    CATEGORY D. Prayers for immediate direction or wisdom, particularly in doing the Lord’s work. I list this last only because it relates to my other thoughts. The maxim says, “If you want to see miracles, get involved in missionary work” or sometimes “family history work.” My current stage demands that I apply this prayer to mothering.

    The idea here is that we pray something like this:

    “Dear Father, I’m here and ready to work this morning; I’d like any and all direction thou hast to offer on how I can best serve thy children over the next few hours. Please show me how to balance my service to meet the needs of my children, my neighbors, my sisters, my husband, etc. The needs that seem most pressing to ME are ______(fill in the blank________ and it seems to me that I would appreciate thy help in such a way: ________(fill in the blank)_______ . If there is something better than this plan, then please steer me.”

    At this point I sort of try the listening technique that MomMom describes above: talking out my thoughts as they occur to me. As the communication goes on, I frequently am reminded of someone or something I hadn’t thought of to begin with. And then I try to execute the plan until things happen for the best.

    I find that this prayer, like prayer category B above, is nearly always answered, though with considerable variability as to timing and methods. As I pray my “reporting for duty” prayer, I tend to have a lot more joy in service that might otherwise be mundane or inconvenient. I also feel like I see the most miracles in this category. A recent example is when a lesson I prepared for institute suddenly morphed into a powerful lesson on an entirely different topic–an absolute miracle, given the direction in which I had (and hadn’t) prepared.

    ——–My last idea in this post is the crude (almost profane) and very limited analogy of comparing God’s parenting to mortal parenting. As a mom, I am too often shortsighted, impatient, grumpy, or capricious. Heavenly Father is none of those. So imagine a “perfect mom” who is wise and judicious and loving in the following analogy.

    CATEGORY A PRAYERS:

    –child comes asking for food
    (sometimes granted, sometimes not…)
    (depends on time of day, type of food, nutritional factors–all outside the comprehension of my child)

    –child pleads to avoid immunization shots or homework
    (not granted; for her own good)

    —child wants a band-aid
    (usually granted, but not always necessary)

    —child wants to keep playing a little longer with his best friend, whose mother is calling him home (i.e. death) (sometimes granted, not usually)

    CATEGORY B PRAYERS:

    —-“Mom, I’m bored; what should I do until dinner?”
    (Granted: “Read a book”–will she accept the direction?)

    —-“Mom I feel sad” or “Mom do you love me?”
    (Answered with love of various types)

    —-“Mom, will you help me lift this?” (Yes.)

    —-“Mom, teach me how to do this.” (Yes.)

    —-“Mom, can you explain this scripture to me?”
    (Yes. At her level, when possible)

    CATEGORY C PRAYERS:

    —-“Mom, James hit me! Make him be sorry!”
    —-“Mom, make Addie play with me” or “share with me”
    (complicated parenting involved here–I’m no expert)

    CATEGORY D PRAYERS:

    —-“Mom, how can I help you clean up the house?”
    (ANSWERED!! NO DELAY)

    —-“Mom, do you want me to babysit or take care of one of the little kids today?”
    (YES! AND HOW! Answered–no delay)

    Thanks for everyone’s tolerance of this grown-too-long post.

  23. Prayer is so personal. I think the Lord knows what we need, but it is important that we recognize what we need as well. It is important that we humble ourselves enough to ask for what we need because that is part of our accepting the answer. It was easy for me to see what my little children needed. When they were unable to ask I had to play twenty questions to find out what it was not that they needed, but what they desired. Without the desire they would not accept, my solution regardless of how much they might have needed it.

    I think that is why we must pray. We also need to pray to express gratitude for the things the Lord has given us. We need to pray to keep in touch with the spirit and to express faith.

    I don’t think there is any requisite number of prayers for any particular blessing. An attitude of constant prayer indicating we understand our dependence on God is all that is required, and a mind set to accept the Lord’s will.

  24. Wow, great post and comments.

    Camille, your post touched my heart, you beared it all and in return I want to say that we support you.

    So many great things have been said. If in anyway I can add it would be to say that I have had prayers answered. Recently it seems to come almost instantly in the form of a phone call. A few months ago I was in dispair, sobbing and hurting, and I pled with the Lord for help, to show me that he cared. The phone rang, it was my sister. Then the last two weeks I’ve had many encounters with doctors and on several occasions when I felt the door was shut, that no help would be forthcoming I prayed for help to get through it, to abide the trial. Sometime within the next day I received an unexpected call from a doctor with some kind of help. I don’t know why my prayers were answered in these particular ways but they were, plenty of other times they weren’t. I know many others have been praying for me and it has strengthened me. But my medical trial has not been taken away and from previous answers I know it won’t be. Part of my trial of faith is enduring those who see my faith as insufficient because I haven’t been healed. I know because of my relationship with the Lord that this isn’t what my medical trial is about.

    Hasn’t anyone ever told you “thank you” for praying for them? That’s enough motivation to continue doing it for me.

    As far as my prayers to the Lord, they have been somewhat lacking. I don’t know what to say most of the time besides ‘thank you for helping me get through this day, help me get through tomorrow, and bless those I love’.

  25. Shalissa, I love the child-asking-questions analogy. That makes things feel much more clear to me–of course “how can I serve” prayers will be answered, just like “can I do the dishes” would be answered. Thanks for taking the time to write it out. :-)

  26. Jennie, thank you for this post. It’s so nice in those moments you realize you aren’t alone in your questions! I understand your fertility frustration to some extent. Took 12 pregnancies to get my six kids here, but I can’t complain. I mean, they ARE here.
    ”I want you to be happy, but I know you better than you know yourself. I know what will make you happy in the long run.”
    While I absolutely believe this is true–and wouldn’t question your personal answer on this subject—I don’t want to leap to a universal conclusion about stuff happens = what God knows will make you happy in the long run.
    Yes, I know that God DOES send us trials because they serve his purposes, but I’m hard pressed to tell when that’s the case unless he tells me so. For example, I don’t really think my miscarriages were because God knew they would make me happy in the long run. I think, at least in most cases he just let nature run its course. What I do think is that those things that happen CAN work for my good—if I let them.
    But what if someone is having a problem that many people are praying for? Is there some sort of quota that God has already determined we must meet before he will answer the prayer?
    Oh, how I have wondered about this.
    Once at a time in my life when my whole family was dealing with an incredibly difficult situation—one entirely out of our control—I sat in Relief Society and heard the woman giving the opening prayer, asked for the general RS president, by name, to have guidance. I thought about our ward, and thousands like it around the world, perhaps all praying for her specifically. How I envied her! If only they’d all pray for US!
    But does that make a difference? The temple prayer rolls seem to indicate that it, in fact, does. But, as you addressed, does that make God’s blessings or assistance some kind of popularity contest? (If so, I’m in deep trouble.)

  27. Is it really a ward fast just to help each of us become more compassionate, with no real benefit to the individual in question?

    I had an experience with this with our previous ward. A woman was on her second round of cancer. The family asked us all to pray and fast, and had us ask for specific things…really detailed.

    This woman died. I learned much from the process. One of the things was the peace that came from knowing — KNOWING — that it had to be God’s will because I have NEVER experienced that kind of faith coming together all at once. By the end, she was ready to go. Her husband finally reached that point, too, and within hours, she was gone.

    My life will never be the same because we, as a ward and community, pounded on the doors of heaven in her behalf. Our ward was SO close after that, and I don’t think any of us will be the same because of that experience.

    All of that said, I have struggled with these questions, and as someone who has health issues, I struggle with knowing what to pray about and for. I love the above comment of praying for such-and-such — or something better.

    I am sensing that even asking these kinds of questions is part of what we can pray about and what we are to figure out. I think it’s not about getting a result, but about learning to really connect with heaven, to know when to pray with more faith for a specific end and when to really let go of our will and thoughts and let God guide. I think in the end, as someone said, we should strive to get to the point where it is given to us what we should ask. I think when we can pray like that, we can know that prayer is what it needs to be — because then our will is in line with His.

    So, ultimately, as I think about it, I think the process is about getting to that point — to really be one with Him.

    I think prayer is work, and the power of it is beyond our comprehension.

    Just thinking about that, though, leaves me feeling really inadequate. But then again, I also have felt His mercy with the process, and helping me line upon line.

    Whew. This has gotten me thinking a lot. Thanks.

  28. I loved how you described your soul. Pink and sore would be exactly right.

    I have many thoughts on this but not enough capacity to put them together so I’m just going to say thanks for this post. I loved it.

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