Prayer is like having a phone conversation with God. Unlike in a normal phone conversation though, where we can immediately hear the response of the person on the other end, in prayer, we can only hear ourselves and then silence (at least in a verbal sense) from the other end. This absence of a verbal response from God might sometimes make us feel like maybe God is not listening to our prayers. But, God does listen and answer our prayers, just not in the way we always expect.
Even though God listens, He wants us to talk to Him sincerely
God is an all-knowing and all-powerful Being. This is an eternal truth. But, a more important truth that we need to know and understand is that God is also our loving Father in Heaven. Bearing these two truths in mind, I know that God does not only have the capability but also the willingness to listen to our prayers. However, just because He has all-hearing ears does not mean that we can just say anything we want in whatever manner we want to. Just as we listen better to a song that is sung soulfully than to a song delivered halfheartedly, I know that God listens more intently to those who try to talk to him sincerely.
Gordon B. Hinckley once said, “The trouble with most of our prayers is that we give them as if we were picking up the phone and ordering groceries – we place our order and hang up.” If this is the manner we pray to God, I’m not surprised if He won’t be as enthusiastic to listen to us compared to someone who treats prayer like an important phone call interview. Maybe more than questioning why God is not listening to our prayers, we should first question how we say our prayers. God is our Father, but He is also a King in every sense. He deserves our utmost respect. Whenever we pray we should act like we are approaching a throne.
As we pray more intently and sincerely, I know that the promise is sure: “Ask, and it shall be given unto you…For every one that asketh, receiveth (3 Nephi 14:7-8).”
Even though God listens He doesn’t always answer us with a YES
Two months ago, I received an evident and powerful promise when I asked Him sincerely for a specific thing. It was one day that I was exhausted from work, but I had to face a more exhausting two-to-three-hour commute back home. While I was standing in line, hungry and tired, to ride public transportation, I remembered wishing in my heart that I could eat a chocolate bar. I had this clear image in my mind of what brand, size, and flavor it would be.
After some time, the van that would take me home arrived and I got inside. I was about to sit in my spot when I saw what seemed like a shiny wrapper. I picked it up, and you wouldn’t believe what I saw. It was the exact chocolate bar I had been thinking of eating a few minutes ago! I asked the people beside me if the chocolate bar happened to belong to them, and they all said no. I gripped the chocolate bar tightly in my hand while fighting the urge to cry. It might have been a small thing but it was proof that God listens to the silent pleadings of my heart.
Even though I know that God listens to my prayers and I’ve had powerful experiences to prove it, I do not expect a chocolate bar to appear on my seat every time I ask God for it. Like many of you, I have learned that God’s answers to prayers, more often than not, are “No, you need to wait.” Whenever God answers me “No, you need to wait,” I’m always a bit disappointed until later, when I find out the grand reason behind His not-so-favorable answer. I have learned that momentary heartaches are sometimes the small price that I have needed to pay to qualify myself for an even greater blessing.
When the answer to our prayers is not a “yes,” it is easy for us to conclude that God is not listening – that He doesn’t love us. But, here’s another eternal truth – God knows us better than we know ourselves. If we only look a little closer, we will see that the “No’s” and “Wait’s” are strong manifestations of His infinite love for us.
Even though God listens He wants us to act.
Many of us know what prayer is and how to do it, but I don’t think we know enough about the whole process. Prayer does not stop when we get off our knees and say Amen. We can only understand and feel the full power of prayer when we stand on our feet and act regardless of God’s answer.
To give you an example, I will continue with my chocolate bar story. A few days after that experience, I was going home with a coworker who knew about the miracle chocolate bar. I told her I was tired and hungry and craving Korean-flavored chicken. She jokingly replied that I should not expect to find chicken on my seat again. Well, guess what? She’s right. I didn’t find one on my seat, but I still ate Korean-flavored chicken that day. Do you know how? Well, the answer is simple. I went to the mall, looked for a Korean fast-food restaurant, and bought the chicken I wanted to eat.
If you compare these two experiences I had with the chocolate bar and the Korean-flavored chicken, it seemed like God did not answer my prayer in the latter incident. However, I think that God answered me in both instances – only in different ways. He served me the food the first time, but He inspired me to act the second time. I was happy and satisfied both times.
I know that prayer is not limited to three action words talking, listening, and answering. It also has everything to do with doing. When we act after we pray, we are showing God that we will do our best to qualify to receive His blessings. And, yes, these blessings may not always be the ones we are expecting, but for those who ask and work for what they want, God always has promises in store.