There is nothing in life quite as sublime as receiving an answer to prayer! This is especially true if we have been seeking the Lord with all our heart on a matter of deepest import for a prolonged period of time. To experience an answer to prayer gives a boost to our faith. In the language of scripture, “then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of the God” (D&C 121:45).
I hope that all who read this have had this sublime experience, or will have a desire to have such an experience.Wherever we’re at in receiving answers to our prayers, the fact remains that we can increase our sensitivity to the things of the spirit—if we desire to. The word “desire” is very important when it comes to the topic of prayer. The scripture teach we “receive according to our desires (Ether 3:2).”
Our desires are one key to receiving answer to prayer. There are many things that can be classified as either barriers or facilitators to receiving answer to prayer. In my opinion, the primary barrier to receiving answer to prayer is anemic desire.
Followers of Christ who live in prosperous circumstances can be challenged by the lack of desire to obtain answers to their prayers. I’m not referring to just those who are wealthy in dollars, whatever we may be “wealthy” in, be it intellect, personality, athleticism, social status, good works, church callings, and etc. They already feel blessed. They may not need anything. They feel they know all they need to know. So day by day they may be offering up prayers that are routine. I wonder if it would be better not to pray at all, as to offer up routine, hasty, superficial prayers to our Father in Heaven (Moroni 7:9).
The problem with offering routine prayer is that one day we will have a real need which will sponsors genuine desire, but we will have to deal with our grade school diploma in prayer and find the Lord is slow to answer (D&C 101:7-8).
Just as there are many shades and hews of colors on an artist palette, there are also many shades and hews in our palette of desires. Our desires are what Heavenly Father sees when he observes us and judges of our righteousness. Our desires are the seat of our motivation and the source of our action or inaction.
In our fallen condition we are required to deal with a plethora of fleshy desires. How we choose to deal with them defines our spirituality. If we’re not receiving answers to our prayers as we feel we ought to, then we need to take an inventory of our desires.
We can drop a net into the sea of our desires, and pull up what we find there, and then sort through our desires like the fisherman sorted through the fish in the parable of the gospel net. They “gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away.” (Matthew 13:48).
The act of casting away our unrighteous desires is nothing more than repentance. Repenting of an unrighteous desire can be of far greater value than repenting of an unrighteous act.
This is a sure way of inviting the Lord to extend the benefits of the atonement into our lives and can result in increased spirituality. The scripture refer to this process as offering up a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered. 2 Nephi 2:7
To summarize: If you will here stop, and ask yourself, why you’re not as close to the Lord as you’d like to be, as evidenced in part by the ineffectiveness of your prayers, your own heart will tell you, that it is neither through ignorance nor inability, but purely because you never thoroughly intended it. (A cut and splice of a thought from C.S. Lewis’s, The Problem of Pain, P. 66.)