When it comes to heavenly communication, does it ever feel like the Lord has everyone else on speed dial—and you’re just sitting there hoping for any little bit of communication, even a generic “new phone, who dis” text?
We all have times when we feel like we just aren’t getting the revelation we seek. It’s easy to feel like everyone around us is getting the guidance they are looking for while we are left alone, in the dark, searching for a little heavenly ray of hope to light our path.
So what do we do if we feel like we are doing “all the right things” and still aren’t receiving answers to our prayers? Then what?
How do we feel His presence and guidance? How do we move forward in faith until He illuminates our path?
Here are seven insights that may help.
1. Look for His hand in your life.
When we become discouraged and feel like the heavens are closed to us, it is easy to feel like Heavenly Father may not care.
But He is there, helping us in ways we may not understand or see until much later. So how do we combat those feelings of despair?
One way is to actively look for even the smallest evidence of God’s love for you. Search your mind for times where He has opened doors for you or blessed you in some small way. They are there—you just have to look for them.
During a particularly discouraging time this past year, I felt like God had abandoned me. He knew I wasn't going anywhere, testimony-wise; I was firmly ensconced in the “ninety and nine." He didn't need to seek me out; I was squarely in the heart of the fold. But still, I felt ignored by Him while everyone around me in the herd was blessed with answers to prayers and good things happening in their lives. I felt like I had nothing. It wasn’t until I began following the wise counsel of my mother to look for His hand in my life that I began to see it—He had blessed me abundantly in many ways; I just didn’t realize it because I had stopped looking. And the more I searched for His hand in my life, the more the Spirit testified to me of God's love. The path wasn't instantly clear, but I knew that I was on His path for me.
When we spend time each day asking the Holy Ghost to help us see God's hand in our life, we are better able to feel His love. President Henry B. Eyring shared his experience when he kept a daily gratitude journal and how it helped him see God's guidance in his life.
"Before I would write, I would ponder this question: 'Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?' As I kept at it, something began to happen. As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day. As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done.
"More than gratitude began to grow in my heart. Testimony grew. I became ever more certain that our Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers."
2. Honestly evaluate your efforts.
Are we really doing all we can with the little things—saying our prayers, studying the scriptures, attending all of our church meetings, serving others, and making temple attendance a priority?
If not, that’s a great place to start. Elder David A. Bednar taught:
“We are prompted by the Holy Ghost every day to do ordinary and simple things. For example, we are prompted to say our personal prayers every morning and every night. We are prompted to study the scriptures. To the degree that we heed these simple promptings, then our capacity to recognize and respond to the Holy Ghost is increased. To the degree that we do not heed these simple promptings, then our capacity to recognize and respond to the Holy Ghost is decreased. We are either progressing or regressing in our ability to recognize and respond to the Holy Ghost. There is no neutral ground; there is no standing still."
3. Are you in a position to hear Him?
If, after honestly evaluating our efforts, we still feel like we aren’t receiving revelation, perhaps we are not in a position to hear. Maybe the Spirit is trying to communicate with us but we aren’t putting ourselves in a place to effectively hear its still, small voice.
It’s hard to hear the gentle whisper of revelation over the deafening cacophony of the world.
Are we putting ourselves in holy places instead? Are we paying the spiritual price and making the necessary sacrifices to hear the Spirit speak to us?
Or do we still try to listen with one ear, while keeping up with the Kardashians of the world with the other?
“Spend more time—much more time—in places where the Spirit is present. That means more time with friends who are seeking to have the Spirit with them. Spend more time on your knees in prayer, more time in the scriptures, more time in family history work, more time in the temple. I promise you that as you consistently give the Lord a generous portion of your time, He will multiply the remainder.”
More often than not, whisperings of the Spirit will go unheard if we are too preoccupied to listen. We could each ask ourselves, “What can I eliminate from my life to better allow me to hear the promptings of the Spirit?”
4. Are we too intent on the answer we want?
Sometimes we try to tell the doctor the diagnosis and the treatment.
Do we want our answer or His answer? Do we want our solution to the problem or His solution? Do we want it on our timing or His timing?
Sometimes we are so focused on our own desires that when we receive answers to prayer, we just don’t recognize them as such. We are too intent on having our choice confirmed that we fail to seek His will for us; we mask His will with our own. Jacob 4:10 reminds us to “seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand.”
President Henry B. Eyring said that he has learned that “answers [to my prayers] were most clear when what I wanted was silenced by an overpowering need to know what God wanted."
When we truly submit our will to His, we may find that the answer to our prayer was there all along.
5. Are we trying to make God choose for us?
On the other hand, sometimes we expect the path to be illuminated before us when we haven’t done our part. We expect Heavenly Father to make the decision for us. That’s not how it works!
We are expected to use our own sense and good judgment, our own talents and abilities, to come to a decision. We then ask Father in Heaven to confirm our decision (D&C 9:7-8). We have to do the work and make a decision using our agency; He won’t choose for us.
We cannot force spiritual things; sometimes we are simply left to our own judgment so we can gain experience and develop our faith.
“We must make decisions and experience the consequences in order to develop self-reliance and faith. Even in decisions we think very important, we sometimes receive no answer to our prayers. This does not mean that our prayers have not been heard. It means only that we have prayed about a decision that, for one reason or another, we should make without guidance by revelation.”
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6. Move forward with faith.
There will be times when we have done all of the above and still do not feel an answer! Then what?
Elder Richard G. Scott taught that this is actually evidence of God’s trust in us!
He not only knows what is best for us, He sees the end from the beginning and knows what is to come. Perhaps He isn't answering because a future event will render the choice moot. Or maybe both choices are equally pleasing to Him and it is up to us. This is how we grow and gain needed experience—we follow the counsel in the scriptures and from latter-day prophets and make a choice. He trusts us enough to act and choose for ourselves.
When we are living worthily, and our choice is in line with the Savior’s teachings, we can move forward and act in faith, knowing that God will watch over us.
"When we explain a problem and a proposed solution, sometimes He answers yes, sometimes no. Often He withholds an answer, not for lack of concern, but because He loves us—perfectly. He wants us to apply truths He has given us. For us to grow, we need to trust our ability to make correct decisions. We need to do what we feel is right. In time, He will answer. He will not fail us.”
7. Keep patiently persisting.
In time, He will answer. The problem occurs when we insist on the answer coming in our preferred timing instead of His.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles often taught that trust in God includes trust in his timeline for our life. “The issue for us is trusting God enough to trust also His timing. If we can truly believe He has our welfare at heart, may we not let His plans unfold as He thinks best?"
And ultimately, that timing sometimes requires that we simply must stick it out.
Elder Maxwell explained:
“Sometimes that which we are doing is correct enough but simply needs to be persisted in patiently, not for a minute or a moment but sometimes for years. Paul speaks of the marathon of life and of how we must 'run with patience the race that is set before us.' (Hebrews 12:1) Paul did not select the hundred-meter dash for his analogy!”
So we keep trying. We keep persisting. We keep trusting in His plan for us.
We trust that even though our knowledge of the situation is limited, His is not. We trust that although we can't see the big picture, He can.
We keep forging ahead, squarely in the fold, waiting for our Shepherd's guiding hand to occasionally adjust our chosen path.
When we continue to follow Him, and patiently persist in doing so, we can be confident that the Lord will not leave us unassisted when a choice is important to our eternal welfare. And along the way, He allows us to become spiritually self-reliant as we trust in His plan for us.