Have you ever prayed for something and didn’t get an answer? Maybe it was something really important that you needed help with right then. Or maybe it was something small that wasn’t a big deal, but it was still frustrating. That can be a real test of what you believe.
But Elder Jeffrey R.Holland recently said, “I offer you my apostolic promise that [our prayers] are heard and they are answered, though perhaps not at the time or in the way we wanted. But they are always answered at the time and in the way an omniscient and eternally compassionate parent should answer them.” (General Conference, October, 2020)
So why does it seem like sometimes they are not answered?
You may receive an answer to your prayer that does not look like what you thought it would so you do not recognize what you got as an answer. It may seems like what happened just showed up and is not related to what you asked for. You may pray for spiritual strength and you receive a challenge that when you have completed it, you are stronger. It could be that you are asking for a sufficient income to provide for your family and you receive an idea that you need to put some part of your life in order and when you have created that clarity in your mind, you find a way to make that income.
Or you may get used to prayers being answered in particular ways and then, when the answers come in a different way, you may not recognize them for what they are. Sometimes the answer may come in what a friend says to you. It may come from the words you read in a book. It may come from a scene in a play. And so if you are looking only for the way that you normally hear from Heavenly Father, you may think you have not received an answer.
Or maybe the timing isn’t right and the answer will come when it will be best. The time may not be right because you are not really ready to receive the blessing or it will be more beneficial when you have had more time to prepare. Or maybe the answer will affect many people and the time needs to be right to make the blessing fit the needs of each of the people involved. This also is a hard time to endure.
Believing that God does hear and answer prayers is a vital part of your constant communication with Him. Elder Holland said this, “faith means trusting God in good times and bad, even if that includes some suffering until we see His arm revealed in our behalf.” So when you have that kind of faith, you will look for answers in different ways. You will enlarge your view. You will ask questions like, “what can I learn from this?” or “what am I missing that I could see if I looked at the situation differently?’.
As you go through this time of uncertainty you will find for yourself the truth of this statement by Elder Holland, “Christianity is comforting, but it is often not comfortable. The path to holiness and happiness here and hereafter is a long and sometimes rocky one. It takes time and tenacity to walk it.” But still your may be feeling “what is wrong with me?” or “If I only had more faith this would be easier.” But those and other statements like them are not true. No one has had more faith than Jesus in Gethsemane, or Abraham as he prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac, or Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail. And yet they suffered. And so, As Elder Holland said, “one’s life … cannot be both faith-filled and stress-free.”
There is one other reason that you may not hear an answer from God. He may be saying, “There is a better way. You do all you can to solve the problem and then tell Me what you can’t do and what you would like Me to do to finish your work.” This is a path to amazing experiences and growth (see Ether 2:23 – 3:6)
As you wait on the Lord, you will be tested, you will be asked to learn and provided a path toward growth. Alma said it this way –
“But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life. And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you, behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst. Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you.”
What will you choose?