A friend of mine, who is a divorced single mother, has been struggling with a big decision she needs to make. It will have a significant impact on her life and future as well as an impact on her family (specifically her kids). She’s really struggled knowing what decision to make. She feels confused. Frustrated. And definitely not at peace. She asked for some advice on how to make the decision. How did she know if she was making the right decision?
Another friend posed this question: “Do you believe in miracles? If so, do you believe they’re something we qualify for? If so, how?”
These two friends got me thinking. A lot. About life. And miracles. And God. And prayer. Why some prayers seem to get answered and others don’t.
I started asking myself some questions. How does God work? How do prayers work? Does God hear prayers? How do we know if we’re making the right choices? The ones God wants us to make. And how do we know when God gives us the answer to a prayer?
In regards to my friend making the big decision, I referred her to something I had written about this very idea. Something I’ve really struggled with in the past. How do we know if it (being any decision we have to make) is what God wants me to do?
The short answer comes from a simple scripture:
Doctrine and Covenants 58:26
“For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.
Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;
For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their inheritance”
For the most part, I think God wants us to do what we want to do. As long as we’re anxiously engaged in a good cause, He doesn’t necessarily care how we go about doing that. WE get to choose. We get to choose with God. The power is in us to govern ourselves. And make our own choices. And do things that make our souls come alive. So we get to make a decision and go the direction we want to go as long as we’re going about doing good.
Some people don’t like that answer. They want God to just tell them what to do. They think God has a specific plan all laid out for us. That’s how I felt for a long time. But I’ve come around. Now I love this answer. I love that God trusts us to choose paths that make us come alive. To choose things we want to do and to bring good into the world in ways that uniquely fit us. It takes work to figure this out. To know in the first place what we want. To figure out our “why.” But it’s work worth doing. Answers worth figuring out.
My answer to the miracles question from my other friend: “Depends on your definition of a miracle. ‘An event not explicable by natural or scientific law’….I guess people say a miracle is something God does. But I think God governs through laws. We just don’t fully comprehend them. Does God do stuff we don’t understand through our human definitions of natural or scientific law? I say 100% yes. And I think some “miracles” happen because we ask for them.”
Her follow up question: “What do you think of the idea of ask and you will receive? Do you think that we neglect the opportunity for blessings and miracles the Lord would love to provide if only we would ask?”
This led me to one of my favorite things about prayer. My answer to her follow-up question: “YES! I think some blessings are absolutely conditional on our asking for them.”
The bible dictionary on Prayer says:
Prayer is a form of work. God is just waiting for us to ask. I think He expects us to figure out what we want and then ask for it. We may not always get what we ask for, but if we want blessings, if we want answers, if we want miracles, we have to put in the work to figure out what it is we want and WHY we want it. And then we have to ASK Him for it. We need to do the work first. Figure out the places we want to go, things we want to do, blessings we want to receive, and then we present it to God. Showing we’ve done the work and we’re willing to put in the time and effort to get the answer or the blessing.
Donald Miller said in his book Storyline, “I think we are spending a lot of time asking God to tell us what to do when the whole time He’s asking us what we’d like to do instead. I think He’s asking us what’s in our hearts, what makes us come alive, what ignites our passion and saves many lives.”
God assuredly guides and directs us. But the guidance often comes after we’ve done the work to figure out the direction we want to go. And miracles happen every day often because we ask. The key is to do the work to figure out what we really want, to ask God to help us get it, and to trust God will either grant our request or he’ll put on the brakes and let us know we’re headed in the wrong direction or asking for the wrong things.
Here are some more OSSS posts on prayer that you might consider checking out: