Episode 78: When You Don't Get What You Desire From Prayer

Nov 07, 2022


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Prayer is tricky. On one hand we are told that we simply need to ask in order to receive. Knock and it shall be opened. Yet on the other hand we are told to patiently trust in God’s timing. That God will answer in His own way and in His own time.

Those opposing concepts used to get me tripped up. On one hand it felt like all I needed to do was ask and it would be granted. Then on the other it felt like I needed to guess correctly what God’s will was and it would be granted. Almost trying to guess what God wants for me. 

It almost seemed if you were praying for something righteous it should be granted right? However, if you are praying for something righteous and it doesn’t happen that can be really painful. So what is it that you are supposed to do when you don’t get what you desire from prayer? I have a few ideas I want to share with you but let us first look into what Elder Chirstopherson taught in the April 2022 General Conference. 

“Because we know that God has power to prevent or remove any affliction, we may be tempted to complain if He does not do it, perhaps questioning, “If God does not grant the help I pray for, how can I have faith in Him? We ought not to think of God’s plan as a cosmic vending machine where we (1) select a desired blessing, (2) insert the required sum of good works, and (3) the order is promptly delivered.

Our repentance and obedience, our service and sacrifices do matter. We want to be among those described by Ether as “always abounding in good works.” But it is not so much because of some tally kept in celestial account books. These things matter because they engage us in God’s work and are the means by which we collaborate with Him in our own transformation from natural man to saint. What our Heavenly Father offers us is Himself and His Son, a close and enduring relationship with Them through the grace and mediation of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. In the end, it is the blessing of a close and abiding relationship with the Father and the Son that we seek. It makes all the difference and is everlastingly worth the cost."

The goal of prayer is not to get what we want, but to build an enduring relationship with Heavenly Father and the Savior. Prayer is our communication device with Them that changes us. I am always saying that the gospel is not a checklist of things to get done and complete. The tasks of the gospel, if you will, are relationship building tools. Prayer is a tool that helps us build a relationship with God. If we use the tasks like a checklist we will be frustrated when we don’t get what we desire out of prayer. Here are a few strategies I use to help me look at prayer from the lens of a relationship and not a checklist.

 Pray For Help...Not Miracles

The first thing I do when I feel I am not getting what I desire from prayer is that I intentionally pray for help WITH things, not for God to do things.  I often ask for help with the things I can act on. Not just things only God would have to do. 

I view prayer as a tool to help me and not just an order I am placing with God. I then can act on what I am asking for and God can help me. It’s not one sided.  We can work together. This really helps me see that I have a part in the prayers I am asking for. I can’t expect God to do all the work. I put in my requests and do my part by continuing to work towards a result.

 Pray For Breadcrumbs

The second way is I try to only ask for things that could be granted in one day. I call these breadcrumb prayers. I did a whole episode on that last year.  Basically, it is thinking about what I am needing from God and then asking myself if God were to grant a portion of that today, what would that look like. Then I ask for that specific thing. When I approach prayer in that manner I can see how things are answered line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little.  

God rarely grants giant miracles in our life all in one day. Usually those miracles are granted over time in small and simple ways. If you pray in those small breadcrumb ways you start to see HOW God answers prayers and are able to see that you are actually having your prayers answered more often than you realize.

 But If Not

The third strategy is something I recently started using to help me see prayer through the lens of a relationship and not a checklist. This strategy I heard in a sacrament talk from someone. I was never to get the original source but it has been really powerful for me. 

It is to add the words, "but if not," after you ask for something in your prayer you aren’t sure is God’s will.  Then you add something you know God COULD answer for you. For example, “Please help me to get my to do-list done today, but if not, please help me to feel peace with the things I didn’t get done."

In this case, you are asking for something that is a righteous desire but it might not be God’s will that you get everything done. Asking for peace for those things IS something He could offer you if those don’t happen. This has really helped me be more open to God’s will and timing.  

Record Revelation

My final strategy that I use almost daily, is to use my Seeking Personal Revelation Journal to implement those last three strategies. If you haven’t already, listen to Episode 74 I did a couple of weeks ago on my journals. Then grab one for yourself and a mini prayer journal for a friend and draw closer to God through prayer.

These journals work as guides to help you develop a daily spiritual routine to confidently recognize the spirit, receive revelation, and enrich your connection with God. The Meaningful Prayer Journal and the Seeking Personal Revelation Journal have not only benefited me but have helped many women in their journey to receiving more revelation in their lives. 

"The Seeking Personal Revelation Journal has helped me organize my thoughts and feelings before I pray. I am more deliberate in study and prayers. It has helped me recognize the daily helps and promptings from God as I track or record promptings and what I am thankful for each day. I feel more clarity and connection to the Godhead." ~ Jody 

 God truly is speaking to us. It does take effort on our part to hear Him and often times we have look for Him in different ways that we have been. Every effort that we make to ask for His help will be well worth it. Just as Elder Christopherson stated, "In the end, it is the blessing of a close and abiding relationship with the Father and the Son that we seek. It makes all the difference and is everlastingly worth the cost."

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