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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Discerning Answers to Prayer, Part 2 - When You're Doing Everything Right

Sometimes we may be doing everything right, and yet while in sincere prayer, we still can’t discern the Lord’s will for us.

Here are five possible reasons why this may be the case:

Possible Reason #1: More time is needed (aka you need to “Wait upon the Lord”)

"It may be that you are not doing anything wrong. It may be that you have not done the right things long enough. Remember, you cannot force spiritual things" (Elder Boyd K. Packer, “Prayers And Answers” October 1979 General Conference).

The scriptures give us many examples of those who waited upon the Lord, and were rewarded for their waiting (or, as I see it, their faith in him).  As we read in Psalms, “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord” (Psalms 27:14).  Isaiah also said, “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

For a good article on waiting upon the Lord, click here:

Possible Reason #2: We are asking, but not for the right thing

"When we ask amiss, God, being perfect, must reject our petitions: ‘And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you.’” (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience”, p. 94).

Possible Reason #3: We assume there must be only a one right or one wrong answer

"Even in decisions we think very important, we sometimes receive no answer to our prayers. This does not mean that our prayers have not been heard. It only means that we have prayed about a decision which, for one reason or another, we should make without guidance by revelation. Perhaps we have asked for guidance in choosing between alternatives that are equally acceptable or equally unacceptable. I suggest that there is not a right and wrong to every question. To many questions, there are only two wrong answers or two right answers" (Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Revelation,” New Era, Sept. 1982, 46).

Possible Reason #4: God wants us to work it out

“We are often left to work out problems, without the dictation or specific direction of the Spirit. That is part of the experience we must have in mortality. Fortunately, we are never out of our Savior's sight, and if our judgment leads us to actions beyond the limits of what is permissible and if we are listening to the still small voice, the Lord will restrain us by the promptings of his Spirit" (Elder Dallin H. Oaks, New Mission Presidents' Seminar, 1994).

Elder John H. Groberg elaborated on this process:

“So, rather than saying, ‘I will not move until I have this burning in my heart,’ let’s turn it around and say, ‘I will move unless I feel it is wrong; and if it is wrong, then I will not do it.’ By eliminating these wrong directions and moving forward in others, very quickly you will find yourself going in the direction that you ought to be going” (Elder John H. Groberg, “What Are You Doing Here?” New Era, Jan. 1987, 37; "What is your mission?" Speeches of the Year 1979, p. 97-98).

Also, Pres. Brigham Young:

“If I do not know the will of my Father, and what He requires of me in a certain transaction, if I ask Him to give me wisdom concerning any requirement in life, or in regard to my own course, or that of my friends, my family, my children, or those that I preside over, and get no answer from Him, and then do the very best that my judgment will teach me, He is bound to own and honor that transaction, and He will do so to all intents and purposes” (Pres. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 3:205).

Possible Reason #5: The question may be a tad trivial

"Similarly, the Spirit of the Lord is not likely to give us revelations on matters that are trivial. I once heard a young woman in testimony meeting praise the spirituality of her husband, indicating that he submitted every question to the Lord. She told how he accompanied her shopping and would not even choose between different brands of canned vegetables without making his selection a matter of prayer. That strikes me as improper. I believe the Lord expects us to use the intelligence and experience He has given us to make these kinds of choices" (Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Revelation,” New Era, Sept. 1982, 46).

When a member of the church asked the Prophet Joseph Smith for advice on a particular matter, he stated:

"It is a great thing to inquire at the hands of God, or to come into His presence: and we feel fearful to approach Him on subjects that are of little or no consequence” (History of the Church, 1:339).

What about you? 

Have you encountered other barriers to receiving answers to your prayers? 

If so, how did you overcome that barrier?


  1. Pride. Not wanting to do what I know the Lord wants me to do, so asking over and over even though internally I really do know the answer.

    I've had the Lord tell me "you know what you're supposed to do, why are you asking?" ... it was a humbling moment to say the least.

  2. I'm grateful for all the references you include with your blog posts.
    Thank you for sharing with breadth and depth for us to further engage with the process of learning and discovering for ourselves.