I believe the Lord hears and answers the sincere prayers of the Faithful. However, He does not always answer them in the manner, and at the time, we might expect. We may think our concerns are of great importance and urgent, but the Lord knows all things, and He knows what is best. A scripture comes to mind: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9) To illustrate this point, I would like to share two examples of urgent prayers.
As a young missionary in the mid-1960s, my companion was severely and mortally injured in a farm accident. As I prayed over his gravely wounded and dying body, I called upon the Lord to spare his life. I felt confident that the Lord would answer my prayers. After all, my companion was a faithful full-time missionary in the service of the Lord, and I had offered an earnest and heartfelt prayer. As I labored over his body, I continued to pray quietly in my heart and mind promising the Lord, “I would dedicate my life in His service if He would just save my companion.” Sadly, my companion was not “spared.” I agonized for days over his loss, but eventually, I realized, my companion is now with the Lord, and he is still in His service. But what of my faith and prayers? Did the Lord answer my prayers; or, were they offered in vain? Yes, the Lord answered me, but not as I had hoped. They were the selfish prayers of a desperate young man asking for something contrary to the will of the Lord. In the end, the Lord answered according to His will and wisdom.
Incidentally, as time passed, I reflected frequently on the death of my companion and the desperate promise I made to the Lord: “I would dedicate my life in His service if He would just save my companion.” At one point, I remember thinking briefly: “I guess I’m off the hook now!” However, it was a mistaken thought. Frankly, I was wrong. Events and consequences in this life should have no bearing upon whether we should choose the right. Choosing to serve the Lord is always the correct decision. Making that choice should be independent of life’s consequences. In my case, I knew I had already decided to serve the Lord with all my might. It was a Holy Covenant I had made previously. One I should honor.
Several years later, another significant prayerful event occurred. Our Stake Presidency visited our Military Servicemen’s Branch to reorganize the Branch Presidency. In that process, I had the opportunity to be interviewed by the Stake President. It was a great interview. He did not call me to serve in the Branch Presidency, but later in the day, the President asked that I meet with him again. In this second interview, he said: “Brother Edgar, we came here today to reorganize the Branch Presidency of the Bitburg Branch. We did not plan on reorganizing the Elders’ Quorum Presidency. However, it has become clear in my mind that the Lord wants you to serve as the President of the Bitburg Branch Quorum of Elders. Will you accept that calling?” I was sure the Stake President had received inspiration from the Holy Spirit, so I said: “Yes, of course.”
Then the Stake President added, “our Priesthood Meeting will begin in about 10 minutes, and we would like to sustain the new Elders’ Quorum Presidency in that meeting.” He pointed to an empty classroom and added, “will you please go into that room and take about five minutes to pray for the names of two brethren to serve as your counselors in the presidency?”
Wow! I knew the Stake President held priesthood keys. I knew I had just been called by him and by inspiration. I knew the Lord answers prayers. I knew I was worthy. And, I knew I had five minutes to receive an answer. I remember thinking to myself: “Scott, PAY ATTENTION and learn! Within five minutes, you will receive a revelation!” There was no need to wait five minutes. As soon as I knelt and began my prayer, two distinct names came clearly into my mind.
Does the Lord answer our prayers? Yes, He answers prayers to advance His Great Plan of Happiness, and because He loves us. For me, I have often prayed for what I want, but God always gives me what I need when I need it. I have learned not to question the will nor the wisdom of God. I just make sure the lines of communication are open.
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