I’ve tried not to bug Heavenly Father too much over the years. When I developed my theory of not wearing out my welcome with God I was probably in my late teens and it made a lot of sense. The idea being that if I never ask for much, when I really do need extra help, Heavenly Father would think, “oh, she never asks for anything, this must really be serious; I should help her out.”

The problem with this way of thinking is that it treats God like He’s some sort of fairy godmother whose main purpose is to grant our wishes. While that does happen from time to time, that’s not His job. How often I forget that Heavenly Father doesn’t exist to make our lives easier.

Frankly I was bummed to come to that realization.

He sent us here to make us into the absolute best version of ourselves.

And guess what! Fun, happy, wonderful things are not the things that make us into fabulous people.

That realization was an even bigger bummer.

Heavenly Father answers prayers. I know this with absolute certainty. But I also know that the answer I’m hoping for is 95% of the time not the same answer that our Father has. I can either be a big pouty pants and shake my fist at God that He’s not listening to me because obviously I know how I want my life to be way better than He does. Or I can sit down and try to understand my struggles from His point of view.

If we don’t think of Heavenly Father as our magical granter of wishes, how should we think of Him? This is going to come as a shock: as a father. Not a jerky, mean father but as the father you maybe always wished you had. Pa Ingalls mixed with Ward Cleaver with a little Cliff Huxtable thrown in. He’s the father who always listens, who is never away on business trips, who is not in a bad mood after a stressful day. He’s the father who loves us more than anything and knows us better than we know ourselves.

My young adult self totally missed the point: the point was to get to know this father; to study the scriptures and listen to what the prophets have told us about Him. I should have been praying to Him and listening to Him and actually forming a relationship with Him. Instead of spending my time thinking about the things I wanted Heavenly Father to give me, I should have been asking what He wanted me to have.

He knows. He knows what I want. He, more importantly, knows what will make me happy. I imagine Heavenly Father listening to people’s prayers is a lot like taking my kids to Target. I have to deal them whining and cajoling and begging for every little plastic doo-dad they see. How they try to convince me that a Lego Ninjago will make their lives perfect! And I think to myself, “This won’t make you happy.” I don’t even try to explain because they don’t get it. Instead I just smile and say, “yes, that Ninjago looks really fun”, as I push the cart along amidst further pleading and wailing.

Do I not want to give my kids Ninjagos? It’s really not about Ninjagos. Not any more than it’s about people being healed or getting a job or finding a husband. Yes, it matters. But what matters most is understanding that it’s our relationship with Heavenly father that will fill us with happiness and peace. Knowing our Father and understanding that He wants us to be the best we can be is greater than any fairy tale wish.

27 Comments

  1. Lilyanne

    October 4, 2012

    What about our Mother? Where is She in these types of musings?

  2. Maj-Lén

    October 4, 2012

    Jennie,
    You hit the fact on a nail. I have felt his love and could never have made it to my grandmother stage without his love. He was the father in my life. He also taught me that happiness is in the willingly given second mile. All his rules are maps to real joy.

    Lilyanne, can’t you feel her right there by our Father’s side? He just wants us to respect her enought not to expose her to our constant whining like Mom, Mom, Mom.

  3. Kathirynne

    October 4, 2012

    She’s probably doing the laundry. Or canning.

    Seriously, though, I tend to think of my heavenly parents in the plural. (This means that my personal prayers are more of a “family council meeting” than a one to one conversation, at least in my mind.)

    I have a deep testimony of my Heavenly Father’s love, and I know that he truly does want the best for me, even if it means that I don’t always have my wishes granted.

    Heavenly Mother, too, wants us to be happy, to become the best version of ourselves that is possible. I think she is in the background, cheering our successes and trying to help us move past the sadness of when we fall short – just like mothers do here on Earth.

  4. marie

    October 4, 2012

    The Target analogy is spot on. I am trying to be better about praying for what the Father knows is best rather than what I think is best.

    Recently a prayer of 2 years was answered. Until the whole thing fell apart. Why? Was I asking for the wrong thing? Was I lead in the wrong direction? No, I think the purpose was served in a different way than I could have ever imagined. I got what I asked for, but for 2 weeks only. Still, I know my Father loves me and was leading and loving me through the whole hearthwrenching ordeal.

  5. Harlene

    October 4, 2012

    I’d still just rather have the nijagos when I ask for them.

  6. GAWMB

    October 4, 2012

    I wish my husband would respect me enough to not expose me to my children’s constant whining. I can see it now: I will take up residence in the guest room that conveniently only opens from the inside. My husband will act as intermediary between me and the children but will never tell them the messages come from me–you know, out of respect. And when my darling little ones wander around the house crying out “Mommy, I need you. Mommy, where are you?” I will whisper through the door, “Can’t you feel my love?” Yes, such a beautiful vision.

  7. Rudi

    October 4, 2012

    Thank you for this beautiful post. It’s good to be reminded again and again that He is our father, and to think of Him in that light.

  8. Lilyanne

    October 4, 2012

    But don’t you see that when we relegate our female deity to the background, that women feel less-than? The exemplar is missing, is silent. So from your descriptions, we as women and mothers should also be silently cheering in the background. That is not my experience as a mother, I am deliberately involved with my children’s lives. The cognitive dissonance of holding up the ideal family where husband presides but is equal to the wife versus the what-we-know of deities in the eternity is getting more stark. Women want to know to whom to look. Just like the OP sought to know how to better to understand her Heavenly Father (although could you imagine what this post would have looked like if she had substituted “She” for “He”? See below for an example) more and more women are coming to the realization that they want to know their Heavenly Mother better. And turning to the church for guidance, they are coming up empty.

    “But what matters most is understanding that it’s our relationship with Heavenly Mother that will fill us with happiness and peace. Knowing our Mother and understanding that She wants us to be the best we can be is greater than any fairy tale wish.”

  9. Liffey Banks

    October 4, 2012

    I yearn for a relationship with my heavenly mother, and am so so sad that she is invisible in our scripture, rhetoric, and theology. First, her invisibility means that I am deprived of any knowledge of her and what she does, who she is… But even more painful is thinking past the “now” and visualizing my eternal destiny if she is the model: eternal invisibility? Eternal separation from my children (because I’m “too sacred?”) Eternal bearing of children, but no administering or communicating to and with them? That sounds so far from my vision of eternal happiness I can only conclude that as a church, a people, we are wrong. Our heavenly mother IS there, she IS powerful, she does want to know us. It’s just our own patriarchal society and culture that has butted her out.

  10. Rudi

    October 4, 2012

    It’s interesting to me, how some women feel less-than because of the way we view (or don’t view) our Heavenly Mother. (By the way, I am a woman, in case Rudi confuses you.) I feel whole and complete, despite the holes in our religion regarding our Heavenly Mother. I feel whole and complete, because of the way we are taught about families and our divine nature, but especially because of the Atonement. The Atonement, and Christ’s grace, is given to us to make us whole. I think that if we feel less-than, or not complete or whole, there is perhaps a reason why… we need to figure out what that reason is, bring it to our Heavenly Father, and ask for healing and peace.

  11. Jennie

    October 4, 2012

    I really don’t want to get off onto the whole Heavenly Mother tangent. But I would have to say my views are similar to Rudi’s. I don’t want the things I don’t know to get in the way of things I do know: that Heavenly Father knows me and loves me.

    I try to focus on God’s love, not His gender.

  12. Maj-Lén

    October 4, 2012

    Rudy and Jennie,

    Thank you for your straight forwardness. I too feel whole, while not knowing everything.

    There are a lot more scriptures that is not open to us at this time, but I doubt they will be opened until we live the laws we have already been given.

    I was a much stricter parent than my husband. If I get on that tangent I could scare myslef silly. I have a very healthy imagination, and wonder about the commonality of the “Mother Nature” image…Oh where I could go with that, and I would be wrong.

    All of us are inadequate if we compare ourselves to our Savior. He was the only one who was perfect. He is the only Savior of us all, male or female. That is not a cultural belief but a fact which my whole being tesitfies of; the reality of Jesus being the Christ, the Lord of Lord’s, and our advocate with our father.

    To look for comfor is natural, but to look beyond the mark leaves us feeling that we are missing out, which we would be. Truth can be very simple, so simple that some spurn it.

    When the Lord tells us that the genders are equal he does not lie. He never lies. Have you not felt his power surge through you when it was needed to happen. When he guided you to use that which is given to you. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ can move mountains, but we don’t always believe it. When we have these experiences they are unbelievably beautiful and sacred, not to be casually shared, or I would share some of mine.

    The gospel is not just rhetoric, restritions and holes of unkown facts. When we ask the Lord about anything he gives us as much as we are willing to live buy, not so much that we would be condemned. I for one am not ready for the keys to run the Universe, I have a lot of drivers training still ahead before I will even ask.

  13. Tay

    October 4, 2012

    I don’t know, after a lifetime if whiny kids it might be nice to have a change of pace, let my husband take care of it. 😉

    To be quite honest, it is quite remarkable to feel my Father’s love. The unconditional part of it is so refreshing when I crave that kind from my earthly one and know it isn’t there. I can’t help but love that I have a loving male figure in my life and not question His judgement because I know He is trustworthy and that She isn’t one to take anything lying down (projection on my part, also acceptable to me 🙂 )

  14. Heidi

    October 4, 2012

    I’m struggling with this right this minute. On this Saturday, I have an outdoor event for which I have been preparing for months. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for more than a year. I have spent literally hundreds of hours and dollars on preparation. And now, it’s all going to be ruined because the weather forecast shows a high of 39 degrees (yesterday it was 47, it has steadily been decreasing) and snow/rain.

    I have been praying myself hoarse about this for 2 weeks now. I have enlisted all of my FB friends and blog readers to pray for me that the weather will improve. I’m not asking for it to be 80 and sunny (like it was here yesterday), at this point I’d be happy with 50 and no snow.

    But despite all the praying and worrying I’m doing and my friends and loved ones are doing on my behalf, the forecast continues to get worse. I feel so very abandoned by God and not one bit personally loved at all. In the grand eternal scheme of things, I realize this one day is meaningless. But I have poured so much of myself into it that for me, is is HUGE deal. Heavenly Father knows this. For God, it would take nothing for him to twitch his finger and raise the temperature by 15 degrees and get rid of the snow. It would be nothing for Him, but right now it means everything to me.

    I don’t know why I’m even bothering to pray. God will do what He wants anyway, no matter what I desire. What is the point? I don’t feel like what I want is even taken into account.

  15. Ana of the Nine+ Kids

    October 4, 2012

    I have not read all the comments on here but I do have a few thoughts on Heavenly Mother I want to type out. I believe that she is real and there, just as much as Heavenly Father is–even if we don’t know much about her. I think sometimes we forget that the knowledge we have of Heavenly Father has come because of revelation–not reason or intellect and not “on demand” from us–we know about him because He has chosen to reveal himself to us. I think if we don’t know much about our Mother it’s likely NOT because we are lead by male chauvenists but because God has not chosen to give us that information for whatever reason. Maybe instead of feeling frustrated by what we DON’T know, we should build on what we DO know–which in the case of the LDS church is a considerable amount more than the rest of the world. Also, it never hurts to ask questions directly of the source–if you want to know more about Heavenly Mother, ask Heavenly Father to tell you about her. Who knows? He’s been known to answer questions before . . .

  16. Moriah Jovan

    October 4, 2012

    I’ve been tempted to comment on this post several times today, but haven’t, and then Heidi posted this:

    I don’t know why I’m even bothering to pray. God will do what He wants anyway, no matter what I desire. What is the point? I don’t feel like what I want is even taken into account.

    The sense of betrayal is even deeper when we’re constantly told “obey and you will have blessings.” It’s not that we see God as a vending machine. It’s that we are promised God will vend blessings IF WE OBEY.

    So we obey.

    And, as Heidi said, it would be NOTHING for an omnipotent being to flick a finger and raise the temp in such a manner so as not to disrupt the rest of the world (I mean, time stopped when the walls of Jericho fell, right?). It’s such a small thing.

    We are told time and again Heavenly Father knows each of our wants and needs, and we are precious to him individually, and yet…

    It’s possible something BAD could happen and Heidi’s being prevented from going to keep that bad thing from happening, but the thing is, she will never know and she will be left with this sense of betrayal.

    If anybody keeps perfect faith when one is instructed that blessings will pour forth in exchange for obedience–and cannot collect on that promise–I’d be surprised.

    If I keep promising my kids something that I never deliver on, they will feel not only betrayed, but will learn not to trust a word I say–not even the truth.

    All that said, I cannot say that my prayers have gone unanswered–but they did go unanswered for so long I stopped asking for anything years ago. I finally got a clue it made no difference, so what was the point. I will express thanks, but I refuse to ask for anything.

  17. Cindy

    October 4, 2012

    I read something a couple of years ago (on a Christian blog that I have never again been able to find)that has really shaped my thinking in this.

    The premise of the post was the question “Why do we Obey God.” The author went on to talk about the reasons that we obey, and that far too often we were taught & continue to teach that we obey God because He will bless us.

    This teaches a sort of “obedience=happily ever after” mentality. Which is eventually a problem, because we were never promised that except in the eternal sense of happily after. We have no guarantee that making the right decisions now will result in comfort, in fact we have a lot of assurances that God will give us or allow us to have trials and adversity to help us learn and grow precisely because He loves us. This doesn’t mean that when we obey we aren’t blessed–we are. But not in the way we’d usually like, with continual blessings of comfort and well-being and nice weather.

    The problem of course with the “obedience=happily ever after” paradigm is that eventually in every life something happens to our current “happily ever after” and then how do we feel about obeying God? Are we angry and do we feel betrayed that He has not met His end of the deal? I think it’s very common for this to happen, and the danger in this time in our society is that there will be people all around us that encourage us to abandon our belief in God because He hasn’t taken care of us and our “needs” like He should.

    The author’s conclusion was that we should obey God because we love Him, and because that is how we how Him that that we love Him. He emphasized that it is more important than ever to teach this to our children so that when they are disappointed in life they won’t feel like God has failed them.

    (And just so no one thinks that I can say any of this because it’s easy and my life has gone along just the way I wanted, a year ago my husband lost his job and we had to leave our home of almost 20 years and move across the entire country. I have done it kicking and screaming the entire way, and have been angry with God for much of the year. Not, though, because He wasn’t giving me what I deserved, but because He wasn’t giving me what I wanted…)

    One last thought in this far too long comment. CS Lewis has a great quote about the nature of God, which says that what we want is not so much a Father in Heaven, but a Grandfather in Heaven, who is kind and benevolent and just wants us to be content.

  18. Sharon L

    October 4, 2012

    I agree with the comment that focusing on Heavenly Mother in this discussion is going off on a tangent. Sometimes, I think, because of having living prophets; continuous revelation and the Savior’s true church, we mistakenly believe we should know everything – right now. Not so.

    In regards to Heidi’s concerns and worries, I believe Sister Okasaki had it right on the mark – we should be praying to ask Heavenly Father and the Savior GO THROUGH OUR EXPERIENCES WITH US, not separate and apart to either grant or not grant our wishes.If the miracle happens and its 80 above with blinding sun, we should still entreat them to go through it with us. And if its only 25 or 30 and snowing, we should plead for THEM to go through it with us and add THEIR strength to ours.

    And building on that, I don’t envision our Father in Heaven and the Savior as “blockers” to run interference in front of us as we go through life- but again to go through those experiences WITH US, so that eventually THEIR perspective becomes ours; THEIR will becomes ours – so that – as the Book of Mormon teaches us, we will know HIM because we have become LIKE HIM.

  19. Strollerblader

    October 4, 2012

    It has been my experience that even when Heavenly Father can’t answer our prayers in the way we desire, or on the timeline we want, that He still sends regular Tender Mercies to let us know that He is indeed there and hears us, even if He can’t give us what we want (right now). Look for those Tender Mercies in your life; if you look, you will see the hand of God in your life.

    The bible dictionary tells us that “strong faith is developed by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ; in other words, faith comes by righteousness.” The hardest times are when we ARE being obedient and our faith is wavering; the true test is in continuing to walk on in the dark.

    Here is another blog post from the beginning of this year that addresses these unanswered prayers, in case you want to read through it and the comments:
    http://bycommonconsent.com/2012/01/15/prayer-and-the-sovereignty-of-god/

    I second the thought that if you want to know more about Heavenly Mother, then you should ask God.

  20. Moriah Jovan

    October 4, 2012

    I don’t understand the concept of an omnipotent deity that CAN’T do something.

  21. Ana of the Nine+ Kids

    October 4, 2012

    Interesting question Moriah. I suppose it depends on what you consider possible. Is it possible for God to bless us with peace and happiness if we are living lives of rebellion and sin? I don’t think he can. I also think there are certain things he CAN’T do because they would contradict and defy his definition of himself (and ourselves?)–like if he were to violate our agency? (I would elaborate more on this but I have to go pick up to wheel-less teenagers just home from a cross country meet. :))

  22. Strollerblader

    October 4, 2012

    God is also bound by laws.

  23. angie f

    October 5, 2012

    I think it comes in the definition of can’t. Perhaps God could circumvent natural laws at the whim of our childish (in the eternal scheme of things) desires, but He won’t because He understands the full measure of consequences for our actions that we do not. In my experience, when an answer to a prayer is no, it is not because God can’t do what I want, but because He knows, in the long view He has and I don’t, that it is not in my best interest, that I will be harmed, or that it would rob the agency of another person and He has protected our agency with His son’s blood; all our agency, not just mine, not just the agency of the righteous, but all our agency. Natural consequences are an important and powerful part of mortal life, probably eternal life as well.

    It has been essential for me to remember that the purpose of prayer is not to change God’s mind, but to change my will to align it with His. When my prayers sound more like searches for understanding and humility and less like letters to Santa, I grow in understanding why things must be the way they are. I have learned far more from the waiting He has required of me and from the denied requests than ever from the things I *got.*

  24. KDA

    October 5, 2012

    angie f. That describes my state with prayer, to a degree. I rarely ask for anything (even for change in people’s health) but I ask more frequently to better understand God’s nature as an infinite being even though I’m finite and struggle to transcent my mortal viewpoint. I also pray to better demonstrate compassion towards others because I have my own perspective, and other people can be so foreign–which doesn’t mean they are bad or crazy. And I need to spend more time on my knees / in meditation trying to empathize more fully with their worldview. Sometimes I wonder if my unwillingness to ask for events outside of myself means that I have lack of faith. Maybe I need to ask more for God to intervene, especially in relation to people’s health. We do have stories of healing in scripture and in people’s lives. I am just afraid that if I ask for it and it doesn’t happen, I’ll shatter. In my refusal to see God as a wish granter, am I worshipping my cynicism more than I am recognizing that divine power can (at times) make the seemingly impossible happen?

  25. Cheri

    October 6, 2012

    RE: why we obey. Obedience, or submitting to God’s will, is the sacrifice we offer in order to know Him. In Lectures on Faith JS says (in a pretty familiar passage) that a religion that doesn’t require sacrifice lacks the power to save. In a less familiar section from that same passage, he explains why: “Those, then, who make this sacrifice, will have the testimony that their course is pleasing in the sight of God; and those who have this testimony will have faith to lay hold on eternal life.”

    When we obey, we are showing God, and ourselves, that nothing in this world is more important to us than God’s will for us. We are choosing God above all else.

    Moments in my life that have most defined who I am in relation to my Father have unfolded exactly as Joseph described. It’s a pattern. Here’s how it has gone every time. I obeyed God’s will for me, when it went against everything I thought I most wanted. Sometimes, I obeyed only after much resistance, kicking and screaming the whole way.

    Each time, as a direct result of that obedience, I came to know beyond any doubt that He was real, that He loved me deeply and individually, and that I would do anything for Him. I came to know myself and my Father. By losing myself.

    Usually sometime later I would come to a point where I could recognize that following His way ultimately always leads to my best happiness. But even if nothing in this life ever seemed to produce that hoped-for happy result, each time I had already gained–long before the results were in–a knowledge of God, and of myself, simply by obeying. I have gained faith in Him by obeying Him, by choosing to trust.

    This pattern has repeated in different ways and times over a couple decades. Sometimes it has taken me months or even years to really submit. But no matter how long it takes, the pattern is always the same.

  26. Arianne

    October 7, 2012

    It has taken me a long time, and I’m still not all the way there, to realize that the faith to move mountains we read about in the scriptures is not the desire to move mountains that is so great that the Lord has to comply. But rather it is the realization that the Lord wants the mountains moved and then asking for Him to help you do it. Similarly, having such great desire that I can get the Lord to do what I want is not what faith really is. It’s coming to an understanding of what it is HE wants for me, and then asking for that.

  27. Guest

    October 8, 2012

    Great post..! Interesting comments.

    Christ said, “if you have seen me you have seen the Father.” Do you think he might say the same thing about the Heavenly Mother?

    I imagine God and his “Wife” would be One contrary to most married couples I know in this existence. 😛

    Just a thought…

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