I have heard many people say that they don’t know if God is answering their prayers. What most people don’t realize is that God is talking to them right now. He talks to each of us all the time. And for the most part we all hear it. We just don’t realize that it is God speaking to us.
For example, when a friend says something unkind and something inside of you whispers “respond kindly” or “don’t be offended”, that voice is God speaking. It is Jesus Christ talking to you. We call this “the light of Christ” or our “conscience”. This voice is personal revelation from God to you directly.
The more that we listen to this voice, and give heed to it, the more active and discernible it is in our lives. As we progress and grow in this process the more specific the messages become. This light of Christ begins by revealing to us when things have a right and wrong aspect to it. And as we listen and choose right it takes on more of a guiding and teaching role.
In D&C 50:24 it says “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day”. The Lord is talking about the process we must go through to grow in our ability to get His answers.
If we want to get answers to our prayers, we start by heeding this communication that we are already getting. Then by being faithful to this “light” that we are receiving, God will begin to give us more “light” as we pray and ask for it. “And that light” will grow “brighter and brighter until the perfect day”, meaning until we can one day see God face to face (Ex 33:11, Acts 7:55-56, 3 Nephi 11:8-17, D&C 93:1).
How Does God Answer Prayers?
This is a topic where people new to praying don’t really know what to look for. As I contemplated this topic I thought of several different ways to explain what I have learned about prayer over the years. I decided that maybe the best way to approach this topic would be to give personal examples of times in my own life when I have received answers. I make no claim to being some great person. It is just if I were the one reading an article like this I would prefer to read someone’s actual real life experiences. So please take it in that light. These are just my own experiences from trial and error in the area of prayer.
Some of these experiences are personal in nature. So much so that many of them I don’t really talk about much to people. And I have hesitated greatly in writing them here. But they are real and I can think of no better way to help people with this topic than to give real examples. You will just notice that in some of the situations I may use a bit vague verbiage. When you see this it is only because that particular thing was quite personal. But these parts are specific enough that I think that they will illustrate the point.
Directly From The Scriptures:
I know this sounds kind of like the standard “Sunday school answer”, but answers to prayers really come this way. There have been many times when the God of heaven literally spoke directly to me as I was reading the scriptures. What I mean by this is that sometimes God will use the words that you are reading as a real time message directly to you in that moment. And He will touch your heart in a way that you realize that this is happening, and that it is real.
For example I remember several decades ago I was going through a particularly tough time in my life. We all have tough times in our life that we hope we never have to repeat again. This was that kind of a time for me, and I had been praying for help in the matter. Then while reading chapter 3 in the Book Of Revelations in the New Testament, I read verse 7 & 8 which says in part:
“These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.”
Now in reading this I remind you that I make no claim of being some great person. And that is why this was so powerful to me in that moment. As I read that verse all I heard was “David, I know thy works: thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.” Wow!, the Holy Ghost penetrated my heart so powerfully. I was immediately wrapped in a warm blanket of the Holy Ghost from head to foot.
I knew God was speaking directly to me in that moment. He was telling me “David, don’t worry, because you have had a little strength and have been faithful, I have got this, I will take care of you”. Now I will admit that this scripture had a bit of extra punch because the verses actually had my name “David” in it. But I have had very similar experiences where the verse did not actually state my name.
God really does use words on a page in scripture as a way to speak to us individually for our specific situation in real time. It may sound surreal if this kind of thing is new to you. But when it happens you know it. God will touch your heart in a way that you know he is paying attention to you right then in that moment and giving you an answer to your prayer. It is pretty powerful.
Through Other People:
In a similar way to the way God uses scriptures, He can also do this with words spoken by another human being in conversation. For example, about a year ago I had been deciding whether or not to leave my salaried job and turn my small business on the side, into my full time endeavor. I was making enough from this side business already to at least pay my bills, and had ample ability to grow.
During the time when I had been praying about and pondering this decision, I went to dinner with a friend. This particular friend and I often go out to dinner and discuss religious topics. As we were talking, the topic of this decision I was engaged in came up.
To my surprise, and perhaps some chagrin, this friend said something along the lines of “David, I notice that you really put a lot of your focus in your work”, implying maybe a bit too much focus. You would have to know me personally to understand why this was a significant statement. As he said this the Holy Ghost penetrated my heart to such a degree that again I knew God was speaking directly to me through my friends words. And I knew exactly what He was telling me to do.
I have been recently studying the book of Isaiah. In the book of Isaiah one of the most prevalent sins of the people in the end times will be the sin of idolatry, putting your heart on something more than on God. Through my friend God was pointing out to me my own idolatry, and how working for myself from home on my business would allow me the time I needed to focus more on God.
My point here is that we all have our own strengths, weaknesses and situations. But as we pray in faith God does and will give very specific personal direction to us that we need in our individual lives. And He often does this through words (sometimes random words) spoken by other people. This is another form of personal revelation.
A Prick Of Conscience:
The little image on the left is one of Fred Flintstone and the good and bad angels on his shoulder. When I think of this type of an answer to a prayer I think of Satan and the light of Christ trying to encourage us to follow their council.
Some of my prayers have been answered by a prick of my conscience. If I am praying for something that involves a right or wrong option, if I listen very carefully I can hear that still small voice of my conscience giving me the right answer. Again it is really neat when you realize that this is the voice of Jesus Christ speaking directly to us.
One time several decades ago early in my marriage, I was unemployed for a short while and was actively looking for another job. I came across a temporary job being offered working for a political group. They needed people to collect signatures for a initiative that they were trying to get on the ballot.
An initiative is a proposed law that if it gets enough signatures, it gets put on the ballot to be voted on by the people. Then if it passes it becomes a law. It is an alternative way to get a law passed other than having the state legislature submit and vote on it.
I had worked several years earlier gathering signatures for an initiative. Based on what this job paid I could have made several thousand dollars very quickly. This was not a long term solution, but I would be able to earn a few extra thousand dollars in a few days. That money would have really helped. The problem was the proposed law would allow gambling in our state.
It would have been easy to have rationalized my way into taking that temporary job. Instead I went to my room, closed the door, knelt down and prayed. I asked the Lord what I should do. I was very earnest. I kind of wanted a reason to take the job, but mostly I wanted to do the right thing.
I prayed and then stayed on my knees and listened. I felt that prick in my heart. I knew it was not the right thing to do, so I did not take the job. I admit I was disappointed, but felt a great peace knowing I was doing the right thing.
Pure Intelligence Flowing Into You:
I have also received answers that came as “pure intelligence flowing into” me. Joseph Smith once said “A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you”. T. 151.
One time when I was about 30 years old I had been having some really significant health symptoms. I had been praying sincerely for a month or so about it. My doctor ended up sending me to a cardiologist to get checked out. During that time I had also been really wanting to know my state and standing with the Lord, if I was on the right track or not.
Out of the blue one morning I got an answer. It was that time of day just before my alarm went off. I was still partially asleep but also partially conscious. In a split second 2 or 3 full sentences went through my mind, both reassuring me about my health as well as my spiritual standing with God. It was very specific and clear words in actual sentences. The only way I can describe it is as pure intelligence flowing into me. It startled me because I was not expecting it. It was definitely not my own thoughts.
And what was strange about it was it was all in a split second, yet like I said it was 2 to 3 complete sentences. I have thought since that this must be how spirits communicate with each other. And I could feel the feeling of the Holy Ghost very strong at the same time. The message was extremely comforting to me.
Getting Answers Can Take Work
For many years in my life it seemed that I didn’t always get answers right when I wanted them. For me it was sort of random in a way. What I mean by this is sometimes I would get answers immediately, and other times I might have to pray for weeks or months really hard until I finally got an answer.
For example a little over six years ago my wife and daughter and I were living in Washington State. We had always just assumed that once our children all left the house we would eventually move and retire in Logan Utah. Logan is just in a very pretty valley that we have always liked.
Well about this time my wife started getting the impression that change was coming. And she felt like the change would involve our moving away from Washington State. So at her request I started praying to find out if the Lord wanted us to move to Logan. I prayed and prayed hard for almost four months but got nothing. It was like they say about the heavens being “brass over” your “head”. I couldn’t seem to penetrate it.
Since I was not getting an answer I became puzzled. I had been trying my best to live as the Lord wants us to. I am not perfect, but yet I could not think of anything I might have done to offend the spirit. And yet it seemed I was praying to a brass ceiling. But I continued to pray and listen.
Finally, without really realizing it I changed my question. Instead of asking “should we move to Logan” I asked “should we move”. When I asked it that way I got a very clear and distinct answer saying something along the lines of “yes, to Idaho”. My reaction was “what? Idaho?” I had never imagined myself living in Idaho. But that familiar warm feeling of the Holy Ghost was their confirming the answer to my soul.
How Do I Know If My Answer Is From God?
One of the more common questions people ask relating to prayer is “how do I know if my answer is from God, Satan or my own thoughts?” That is a very valid question. Even though the world tries to make us feel like we are crazy if we believe in the devil, there really are such things as the devil and evil spirits. And they do try to trick us or deceive us when we are praying.
In his book “Following the Light of Christ into His Presence”, John Pontius gives a really good breakdown of the voices that we hear when we pray. To paraphrase he breaks down the voices in a healthy mind like this:
The first voice we hear is our own thoughts. We can tell our own thoughts because they will typically be less definite or decisive. In other words we might be wondering something like “What does this mean? Do you suppose? I wonder…? or What would happen if? If you think about it most of a person’s time thinking is reasoning, trying to figure something out, or wondering something. Pay attention to your own thinking and you will pick up a pattern to your own thoughts.
Voices that are not our own are generally more decisive and definite. They are statements (weather for good or for bad). Examples from God might be “Get up and leave. This is not a movie you should be watching.”, “tell her the truth” or “you should go to church today”. God also says things like “you are enough” or “I love you”. Examples from an evil spirit would be something like “just take that, nobody will know”, “that person was rude, get angry” or “you are so much better than him”.
My all time favorite scripture describing how to discern between good and evil comes from the Book of Mormon and is Moroni 7:14-17 which reads in part:
“14 Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.
15 For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.
16 For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
17 But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil;…”
I hope that this article helps and benefits those who read it. This is just my own experience with prayer, and what I have learned. If you are struggling with getting answers, my “go to advise” is always don’t give up. God is real. He really does exist. If we ever struggle to get an answer it is because there is something that we have to learn, or that we will learn from the experience. God is ever the teacher. But He does and will answer. I promise. Don’t give up. And I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.