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I don’t know anyone whose every prayer is answered immediately. We’ve all experienced the long waits, wondering when God will grant our desires, ease our burdens, change our circumstances.
We study it out, we present a plan. We work, exercise faith, and develop patience. We try to understand why our request might not be what God wants, or at least doesn’t match his timetable. Are we supposed to learn something first? Does someone else need to make choices first? We try not to fret. And, sometimes for years, we continue to pray.
Every one of us has heartfelt wishes and good desires. We want our loved ones to do well and find joy through Christ. We want to triumph over the natural man, and really become charitable the way our Savior demonstrated. We want good health, physical comforts, generous children, success in our callings. None of these are bad things to pray for.
But they don’t always have immediate answers. They’re the things on our list. If you’ve felt a disconnect lately, an inability to really know you’re communicating with your Father in Heaven, try this experiment.
Set aside your troubles. Believe me, that pile will not evaporate; it will be waiting for you after you complete this task. Take a deep breath, and resolve not to pray for your same old list for one solid week.
Instead, think about what God wants. You don’t have to guess. He has been very specific in telling us his priorities. Our leaders have reiterated what God wants. In fact, this list comprises the Four-Fold Mission of the Church: Perfect the Saints, Proclaim the Gospel, Redeem the Dead, Care for the Poor and Needy.
Heavenly Father wants us all to come home. He wants us to find every single person we can who might be searching for truth. He wants us to care for one another. Why don’t we take His list to him in prayer, and ask for his help in accomplishing those things? Right now, just before Christmas, is the perfect time to give this lovely gift to Jesus Christ.
Instead of praying for a financial windfall, what if you pray for the courage to give a more generous fast offering?
Instead of praying for other people to change, make one of your prayers solely about repentance, and cleansing your own character.
Instead of asking for the new car, the vacation, the bigger house, pray a prayer of nothing but gratitude.
Instead of praying for the missionaries to find people to teach, pray that today as you encounter new people someone will be directed into your path, and you will feel prompted to share the gospel with them. Then slow down and watch for it.
Pray for help finding ancestors, then dig in and devote time to the effort. Pray for walls to come down, for the work to seem easy, for Family History miracles.
Pray to know who might need your help—in your neighborhood, at work, at church, in your own family. Find out what God needs you to do for someone who is secretly struggling right now.
Think of the people you are assigned to Visit Teach or Home Teach. Have you prayed for them, lately? What are their biggest trials and how can you help ease them?
Teach your children to pray this new way, to ask what God would like them to do. Is there a classmate who feels lonely? Does someone in their immediate family need help from them? Is there a Family History name they can pray for help with? Is there something they could donate to charity?
Suddenly, you will feel personal revelation. You will feel directed about what you need to do. Flipping your prayers inside out, and praying for what you know God wants, instead of only what you want, will yield an instant response.
And then, when we do what God wants, he does what we want. At the end of this week go back to your old list of things you’ve been begging for. You may see some of them with a completely new perspective—some of your concerns might look small and insignificant now. Even the way you view the larger things will have changed—you’ll have greater faith in God’s caring and his promise that everything really will work out in good time.
You may even find inspiration and promptings about how to solve a current crisis. Most of all you will find peace replacing worry, and joy replacing discouragement. You may even discover a remarkable answer to a prayer, one you never expected, an unmistakable message from your loving Father in Heaven, that he does hear you and he does want you to know that.
As always, it’s impossible to give a bigger gift to God than he gives us back. And you’ll be stunned at how immersed you will feel in his love. Showered with his blessings, you might never go back to that old list again. There is such joy in actually stepping up and becoming a teammate with our Father in Heaven, that you might decide to stay awhile. Maybe you’ll make this new style of prayer not only a gift to Jesus Christ, but a gift to yourself.