The principle of prayerful inquiry and the pattern of asking, seeking, and knocking suggest three basic imperatives for each of us as latter-day learners.
Inquiring of the Lord through asking, seeking, and knocking requires and is an expression of faith in the Savior.
True faith is focused in the Lord Jesus Christ and His attributes as the Son of God and on His mission and ministry. Such faith always leads to righteous action. The Lectures on Faith state that “faith [is] the first principle in revealed religion, and the foundation of all righteousness” and that it is also “the principle of action in all intelligent beings." Action alone is not faith in the Savior, but acting in accordance with correct principles is a central component of faith. Thus, “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20).
“Faith is not only the principle of action, but of power also, in all intelligent beings, whether in heaven or on earth” (Lectures on Faith, 3). Thus, faith in Christ leads to righteous action, which increases our spiritual capacity and power. Understanding that faith is a principle of action and of power inspires us to exercise our moral agency in compliance with gospel truth, invites the redeeming and strengthening powers of the Savior’s Atonement into our lives, enlarges the power within us whereby we are agents unto ourselves (see Doctrine and Covenants 58:28), and is essential in inviting inspiration through asking, seeking, and knocking.
Prayerful inquiry through asking, seeking, and knocking entails both holy communication and consecrated work. The blessings we seek, such as inspiration and direction from our Heavenly Father, require some effort on our part before we can obtain them. And prayer, as a form of work, is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings (see Bible Dictionary, “Prayer,” 753). We press forward and persevere in the consecrated work of prayerful inquiry after we say “amen” by acting upon the things we have expressed to Heavenly Father. We seek and knock both before and after we ask in faith.
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We should be simultaneously persistent in and patient with this active process of asking, seeking, and knocking.
Note the perseverance in prayerful inquiry in the following selected scriptural examples.
- “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:12-13; emphasis added).
- “And my soul hungered; and I [Enos] kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens” (Enos 1:4; emphasis added).
- “Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good, if ye walk uprightly and remember the covenant wherewith ye have covenanted one with another” (D&C 90:24; emphasis added).
(See also Alma 5:45-46; Alma 17:2-3; Alma 34:27; Alma 37:37; 3 Nephi 18:18-21; 3 Nephi 20:1; and D&C 10:5)
The persistence highlighted in the preceding verses should be complemented with patience and long-suffering. The object of our prayerful inquiry should not be to present a wish list or a series of requests or demands, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is eager to bestow, according to His will and timing. Every sincere prayer is heard and answered by our Heavenly Father, but the answers we receive may not be what we expect, nor may they come to us when we want or in the way we anticipate. We must learn to “wait upon the Lord.”
- “The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord” (Lamentations 3:25-26; emphasis added).
- “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31; emphasis added).
(See also Psalms 27:14; Psalms 40:1; Isaiah 49:23; Micah 7:7; and D&C 98:1-2)
We always should remember to “dispute not because [we] see not, for [we] receive no witness until after the trial of [our] faith” (Ether 12:6). Just as the prison holding Alma and Amulek did not tumble to the earth “until after their faith,” and just as Ammon and his missionary brethren did not witness mighty miracles in their ministries “until after their faith” (see Ether 12:12–15), so many prayerful inquiries will not be answered “until after their faith” and will be accomplished “according to their faith in their prayers” (Doctrine and Covenants 10:47).
Discerning and accepting the will of God in our lives are fundamental elements of prayerful inquiry through asking, seeking, and knocking.
Simply saying the words “Thy will be done” is not enough. Each of us needs God’s help in surrendering our will to Him.
“Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other” (Bible Dictionary, “Prayer,” 752–53). Humble, earnest, and persistent prayer enables us to recognize and align ourselves with the will of our Heavenly Father. And in this the Savior provided the perfect example as he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane:
“Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. . . .
“And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly” (Luke 22:42, 44).
Submitting our will to God’s will is a theme often emphasized in the scriptures.
- “Submit yourselves therefore to God” (James 4:7; emphasis added).
- “And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord” (Mosiah 24:15; emphasis added).
(See also Mosiah 3:19; Alma 7:23; Alma 3:28; Helaman 3:35; and Mosiah 15:7-9)
The quintessential example of the submissiveness you and I should strive to attain in our characters is found in the relationship between Jesus and His Father.
“Yea, even so he shall be led, crucified, and slain, the flesh becoming subject even unto death, the will of the Son being swallowed up in the will of the Father" (Mosiah 15:7; emphasis added).
In a similar way, prayerful inquiry through asking, seeking, and knocking that is truly efficacious requires that our individual will can be “swallowed up” in the divine will and timing of the Father and the Son.
Each and every member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a personal responsibility to learn and live the truths of the Savior’s restored gospel. The principle of prayerful inquiry and the pattern of asking, seeking, and knocking enable us to obtain the knowledge, understanding, and intelligence that are essential to becoming living members of the Lord’s living Church.
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To learn more from Elder Bednar, check out Increase in Learning by David A. Bednar, available at Deseret Book stores and deseretbook.com.