I don’t know if everyone is born with some degree of faith or not. But I think it is safe to say that some are born having the gift of faith, and others can develop it.
When I refer to faith, I mean faith in God. The following list expresses a few things we know about faith as Latter Day Saints:
1. Because faith is wanting, the fruits are
2. The fruits of faith are the gifts of the Spirit
3. Faith comes by hearing the word of God
4. Faith comes by seeking earnestly the gift of faith (D&C 46:8)
5. Three things are necessary in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God… First, the idea that he actually exists, Second, a correct idea of his character, perfections, and attributes, Third, an actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing is according to his will. (Lectures on Faith 3:2-5.)
6. If a man has not faith enough to do one thing, he may have faith to do another: if he cannot remove a mountain, he may heal the sick. HC 5:355
With this brief list about faith in mind, how can you and I make use of this information today?
For starters, I’ve had experience with faith already, so I have the advantage of past experience. Many, if not all who are reading this may be able to say the same thing. For those who can’t, be aware that each of us who’ve had experience, had a starting point.
When I desire to obtain a blessing from the Lord I’m surprised at the resistance that sometimes enters into my mind. I don’t know if this is true for others, but nearly always I have to contend with doubt. I don’t doubt God, that isn’t a problem for me. I have doubts about myself and wonder if I have the energy and determination to gain the Lord’s ear. Maybe it is a form of spiritual laziness. Whatever it is, I go through a session of self talk and pretty soon I get to a point where I call upon Heavenly Father and thank Him for the experiences with the Spirit that I’ve been given in the past. When I review some of these experiences it increases my faith, and I feel confidence swelling in my heart and mind.
After climbing my wall of doubt, I ask the Lord to forgive me of my failings; I know He is merciful and forgiving because of the teachings in the scriptures (Mosiah 26:30), and from my own experiences. I remind myself that it’s not my place to counsel Heavenly Father, but to seek His counsel. I don’t try to sell Him on all the reasons that it would be a good idea to grant me the sought after blessing. I’ve decided He already knows my needs and it is best to express my desires, and then thank Him for all that He has blessed me with. I also pray for the gift of faith so that my petition can be heard and answered. The Lord answers the prayer of faith (D&C 42:14).
Should we ask one time, thinking that is sufficient or do we ask continually until we receive an answer or get tired of asking? This can be the hardest part of prayer. I’ve learned to ask the Lord for guidance on how to pray.
How and why the Lord responds to prayer can be a mystery. In my experience He has granted my request when I’ve made just one request, other times I’ve prayed for extended periods of time and been unable to obtain help. At other times, my prayer was granted after fasting and praying over long periods of time, even years. When I pray, I often say, “Thy will be done”. I’ve learned that we need to be sincere when we say this.
There are many examples of answers to prayer I can relate from. The Lord has blessed me with many powerful Spiritual experiences, and even miracles. I know he hears and answers prayers—nothing doubting.
Most often answers to prayers are subtle, like what happened a few months ago. My wife and me were watching a video on a Friday date night. The phone rang, we saw it was from a loved one. We stopped the movie and listened for 15 minutes about the latest struggles of a newlywed. Before restarting the movie we knelt and with earnest desire prayed for the Lord’s help in behalf of our loved one. We resumed the movie, and about half an hour later the phone rang again. We stopped the movie and were greeted with a much happier newlywed. He thanked us for our prayers. I asked him what he meant. He said that after he talked with us he had a spiritual experience that helped him see the problem from a different perspective, and that he knew our prayer in his behalf was the reason. I asked him why he thought we had prayed for him. We didn’t tell him we would pray for him. He said that he just knew that we had, and that he felt an impression to call us back and relate what he’d just experienced.
If you have time, please relate your thoughts and ideas about faith and prayer.