Latter-day Saint Life

Why It Seems Like Sometimes Our Prayers Are Unheard or Unanswered


The God to whom we pray can hear even the softest mewling of a newborn kitten, even the sound of an aspen leaf as it makes its gentle descent to Earth, carried on a quiet breeze. There is no deafness in those holy ears. Certainly He hears you, even when your prayer is whispered only in the silent chambers of your heart.

In fact, we have been assured that our prayers are heard. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland wrote, “Your Father in Heaven knows your name and knows your circumstance. He hears your prayers. He knows your hopes and dreams, including your fears and frustrations."

That’s a bold statement, and within it are some remarkable and unflinching notions. He hears, this God of ours. And He weighs whatever He hears from you against your hopes and dreams, your fears and frustrations. Nothing for Him is out of context. He knows your circumstances, the state of your heart and soul, even better than you yourself know it. There is nothing you can tell Him of your desperate situation that He hasn’t seen and understood.

What, then, is happening? Why does it seem your prayers are unheard—or, at the very least, go unanswered?

Perhaps the answer comes, but it is not what you expected. As you wait in anguish for heaven to respond, you may not recognize what has already been sent from a loving Father. The answer may be there, waiting to be identified, while you continue to cry for relief from a Father who has already poured out his loving response. It’s like this: Imagine you are praying for a loaf of bread. In your heart, you decide that what you need is a loaf of chewy, crusty, sourdough bread. Your prayer is fervent, your faith solid. And so you continue, step after step along your journey, looking everywhere for the sought-after loaf of sourdough bread. When days and weeks and even months go by, your faith becomes frayed around the edges as you still search in vain for the loaf of sourdough bread. Your conclusion seems all too obvious: Your prayer has not been answered.

But what if, when you prayed for that loaf of bread, your Father knew that you needed pumpernickel bread? After all, “your father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him” (Matthew 6:8). And so, in His love for you and his desire to answer your prayer, He litters your path with rounded loaves of perfectly spiced pumpernickel bread. But you, in your desperate search for that loaf of sourdough, miss it all. His answer is evident all around you, a testament of His love and His generosity of spirit, but you are blinded, seeking instead the thing you expected—that thing you thought you needed.

Remember, too, that the answer may not come in exactly the way you expect. Elder Holland reminds us, “please know that your Father in Heaven loves you and so does his Only Begotten Son. When they speak to you—and They will—it will not be in the wind, nor in the earthquake, nor in the fire, but it will be with a voice still and small, a voice tender and kind. It will be with the tongue of angels.

Sometimes you may not receive an answer because there is no place for God to put it. Your Father may have the perfect answer to your determined prayer, but you have not yet created a space into which he can lovingly tuck that answer. In a devotional address at BYU—Hawaii, CES instruction S Michael Wilcox said that “sometimes the reason the Lord doesn’t answer is because He has a wonderful answer, a comforting answer, a rejoicing answer, and He says, “Where do I put it? There is not place yet in your heart, in your mind for me to put the answer. But life will create a holding place for the answer. So be patient, in time it will come. I have recorded your prayers. I know your needs. I will answer it when the holding place has been created.”

Lead image from Shutterstock

In her new book, You are Loved, Kathryn Jenkins Gordon shares incredible stories and insights about blessings, prayer, and individual worth. In the tumultuous journey of mortality, trials can seem both overwhelming and isolating. But it is in the darkest of moments that the light of Christ shines brightest, beckoning you to turn to Him. With words of reassurance, author Kathryn Jenkins Gordon acknowledges that tough times will surely come—but as you walk through hardships hand-in-hand with the Lord, there is hope for the future and opportunity for personal growth.

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