The purpose of prayer is to access things of the spirit. We are repeatedly taught in the scripture that the Lord will answer our prayers. Receiving and recognizing answers to our prayers is the topic of this post.
Like many of you reading this post, I have had many prayers answered. Therefore, I am familiar with the workings of the spirit. It takes time and experience to grow in our ability to recognize answers. Based on my experiences, most prayers are answered by the subtle workings of the spirit. However, these soft, delicate answers can be misinterpreted. The solution to this problem is to cry unto the Lord for help, asking to know his will and avoid mistakes. Notice the use of the word “cry”. If you think that crying unto the Lord is a little over the top, then I suggest you read more carefully from the scriptures. The scriptures portray the prophets frequenting “crying unto the Lord” to gain answers to their prayers.
I believe the Lord is anxious to answer our prayers and to teach us of His ways, however, we are required to obey the law upon which blessings are predicated.
There are many ways to improve our ability to receive and recognize answers to our prayers. I would like to offer the following ideas that I believe are essential to opening the channels of communication between ourselves and Heavenly Father.
1. Believe what the Lord says about prayer.
Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers. D&C112:10
This scripture and many like it reveal the Lord’s attitude about prayer. We reveal our attitude about prayer when we seek to obtain an answer from the Lord. Are we willing to pay the price? Remember, to believe means that we choose to disregard our unbelief.
2. You don’t need to be perfect to obtain an answer to prayer.
I think the leading reason/excuse for not accomplishing number 1 is that we get stuck on the idea that we need to be better than we are in order to obtain an answer from the Lord. If our need is great enough we’ll quickly forget about our “worthiness” and plead with the Lord for what we need. On the other hand, if our need isn’t of the highest magnitude many of us will simply copout after a few prayers with the thought rolling around in our head that the Lord won’t answer my prayers because _______ (fill in the blank). The blank is usually filled in with some sin we dredge up. In my opinion, this is a manifestation of our spiritual anemia.
3. Be persistent to obtain an answer to prayer.
Once in a while a prayer is answered before we’re finished asking. But most of the time we need to wait on the Lord. Waiting on the Lord is not passive, it entails diligence. Diligence in asking, and diligence in being patient. Elder Richard G. Scott said “Were we to receive inspired guidance just for the asking, we would become weak…” I believe many members of the church are not persistent and patient in their prayers. They develop the habit of praying a few times over the desires of there heart and then moving on with the attitude of, “whatever happens must be the Lord’s will”.
I’d like to suggest a way of seeking after a blessing that manifest diligence in asking and being patient. We’re taught in the Book of Mormon that we should pray three times a day. I think this means we should make the time, even if it’s only for a few minutes, to formerly knee before the Lord and ask for what we desire. After doing this for a period of time then we need to evaluate our feelings. Have you felt that the Lord is encouraging you in your prayer? If yes, then continue until you obtain an answer. I prayed everyday, three times a day, for 350+ days for a blessing. I started in early March and my prayer was answered in Feb, nearly a year later. The only reason I kept asking that long was due to the feeling in my heart and mind that what I was praying about was pleasing to the Lord. It was easy and enjoyable to pray for what I desired. The answer came in a dream.
If after praying for a period of time, if you feel nothing, then consider fasting. Plead with the Lord for help. This brings us to number 4.
4. Do what lies in your power to obtain the blessing you’re seeking after.
Fasting and “crying unto the Lord” for the desires of our heart is the way the Book of Mormon prophets approached the Lord. This brings us to number 5.
5. Listen and watch.
In some situations the Lord may prompt you to do something before answering your prayer. Maybe there is something that needs to be repented of, or maybe you need to apologize to someone, or maybe you need to be faithful in a trial. It’s important to listen to your thoughts and feelings. This is where a journal is important. Record your thoughts and feelings and then follow through on them. I have learned that early in the morning, as I’m waking up or shortly after getting up-when my mind is clear, is when inspiration can best flow.
Watch for “packets of help”. These come in many forms but usually through the help or intervention of someone else. Be watchful, watch for serendipitous experiences, chance meetings with someone, or a comment you may hear from an unexpected source. There are many means the Lord uses to answer our prayers.
6. Read and study about prayer from the scriptures, Ensign Magazine, and books.
The Book of Mormon teaches its readers how to pray. I suggest going through the Book of Mormon and study the topic of prayer. This can be accomplished by using a computer to search words and phrases related to prayer.
I really enjoy reading about how prayers are answered. The Ensign magazine publishes a section called, Latter-Day Voices (formerly Mormon Journal) where members contribute special experience they had with the Lord. Reading these experiences increases faith.
My favorite book on prayer is, “Receiving Answers to Our Prayers”, by Gene R. Cook.
7. Seek to know God and His Son Jesus Christ by inviting the Holy Ghost to be your companion.
Out of all the things we can pray for this is the most important. However, the pressing needs of mortality are always before us, but the time must come where each of us puts the Lord first and we diligently seek to know Him.
I titled this blog, LDS Alive in Christ, with the hope of helping all who come here to realize the importance of fulfilling their baptism covenant by obtaining the gift of the Holy Ghost, and by so doing being made, “alive in Christ.”
Elder Ballard says it this way:
“… life eternal is predicated upon our own individual, personal knowledge of our Father in Heaven and His Holy Son. Simply knowing about them is not enough. We must have personal, spiritual experiences to anchor us. These come through seeking them in the same intense, single-minded way that a hungry person seeks food.” Feasting at the Lord’s Table- Ensign, May 1996, 80; M. Russell Ballard
8. Unanswered Prayers
The Lord has made it clear “there is an opposition in all things” (2 Nephi 2:11). This includes prayer. Click here to view “Why Won’t God Answer my Prayers”.
I would feel remiss if I didn’t share my testimony regarding the power of prayer. I know from my own experience that prayer can be a real power in our lives. The Lord has heard and answered my prayers on issues large and small. He has manifested Himself through these answers to the extent that belief in prayer is swallowed up by knowledge. I know that God answers prayers, nothing doubting.
 Before proceeding, I want to acknowledge that on a few occasions I have made mistakes interrupting the workings of the spirit. I would think this is true for everyone, from the prophets to the average church member, like me. This has caused me concern, but I’ve concluded that we are like children learning to walk. What child has ever learned to walk without falling? So it is with us in learning to recognize things of the spirit. We need to become like a child if we want to learn to receive answers to our prayers. The Lord never promised we would be error free.
 But not all, I have also had prayers answered in “obvious” ways; the answer was given so powerfully that I thought these kinds of experiences were reserved for church leaders at the highest levels of the church. I now know what the Lord means when he says he is “no respecter of persons” (Act 10:34-35).
 …promptings of the Spirit are so subtle and so quiet that sometimes it is very, very difficult to know whether an answer is “yes” or “no.” Sometimes it’s very difficult to know whether you have been spoken to by the Spirit or not….the Spirit usually speaks in feelings, thoughts, ideas, and impressions. The voice of the Spirit is still and small, and if we’re looking for something more, or if we’re not being very quiet and attentive, we’ll likely miss the answer when it comes. “Receiving Answers to Our Prayers”, Gene R. Cook, P. 94.
 The 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines “cry”: To call importunately; to utter a loud voice, by way of earnest request or prayer.
 BYU Campus Education Week August 21, 2007, Elder Richard G. Scott
 I had 25 hits in the Book of Mormon when I entered, “cry unto the Lord” in a computer search. Note: I checked the option, “use all word forms” in the software I used-“The Scriptures”, available through the church distribution center.
 See Omni 1:26, Alma 6:6, 17:3, 28:6, 30:2, 3 Nephi 27:1, 4 Nephi 1:12.