Friday, July 17, 2015

Ask and ye shall receive.

I was recently called into my ward's Relief Society Presidency. This was my first presidency lesson.


My mother-in-law once was challenged to pray about what one thing she could change about her life to bring her family closer together. She got a very clear answer: nightly family dinner. This practice did indeed bring her family together.

Nephi asks his father to ask the Lord.
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Earlier this summer, I felt inspired to pray about what skills Heavenly Father would like me to learn by September. It had never occurred to me to ask such a question before in prayer, but I did end up getting an answer! An answer I've been busy working on.

When Nephi broke his bow, he built a new bow and then asked his father to ask the Lord where to find food. He did find food for his hungry family. 

We got the Word of Wisdom because Emma Smith asked Joseph Smith if he would please ask the Lord if chewing tobacco was really okay. It wasn't until Joseph Smith asked the Lord about this that we got the Word of Wisdom. 

The moral of these stories: there are some things the Lord can't tell us unless we ASK. Asking the right questions is imperative to getting the most out of prayer and out of life.

In my own life, I recently realized that I've been praying all wrong. As an example, what good is a prayer that pleads, "Help me get out of debt," when I'm not changing anything about how I live my life? A better thing to pray would be to ask, "How do You want me to get out of debt? What resources have You sent me to use to get out of debt? What one thing can I do today or this week to reduce my debt?"

Framing the debt issue in the form of actionable questions enables the Lord to answer us in more specific ways, and gives us the opportunity to act by the Spirit.

Almost every issue can be handled this way--through questions that empower both God and the asker to give and get far more helpful responses through prayer. 

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Instead of praying, "help my kids be good!" we could pray, "What one thing can I do today to help my children make better choices?"
Instead of praying, "bless me with a missionary experience today!" we can ask, "Who am I supposed to share the gospel with today, and how am I supposed to do it?"
Instead of praying, "make me happy," we could ask, "What action items could I take today to increase my own happiness?"

There is an unlimited number of questions we can ask the Lord, and we can expect to receive answers. A great scripture about this is in 1 Nephi 15:7-11:

 8 And I said unto them: Have ye inquired of the Lord?
 9 And they said unto me: We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.
 10 Behold, I said unto them: How is it that ye do not keep the commandments of the Lord? How is it that ye will perish, because of the hardness of your hearts?
 11 Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?—If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you.

We are constantly invited to inquire of the Lord. What questions have you asked Him lately?


Asking questions of the Lord is the first step to developing better prayer. The second step is learning better how to receive an answer.

Take ten minutes and go into a quiet place. Close your eyes, take some deep breaths, and in prayer, ask the Lord to remind you what it feels like when He tells you "yes." The scriptures describe this feeling as a burning in the bosom. You may feel some kind of warmth in your chest, or feelings of comfort and peace. Then, thank the Lord for the reminder, and ask for a reminder of what "no" answers feel like. 

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Compare and contrast. Go back and forth with yes and no until you feel confident in your ability to decipher a yes or no answer to prayer very quickly. The answers God sends us are very, very subtle at times. Setting aside time to practice feeling those feelings on my own time has helped me become a lot faster at discerning God's answers to my prayers when it really counts. 

Another technique I have used to improve the success of my prayers has been to write down the things I want to ask the Lord ahead of time, and then actually ask Him with my pen and paper at the ready. This talk by Elder Don R. Clarke of the Seventy talks about the importance of writing down spiritual impressions. When I write down the answers I get from the Lord right away, as soon as I get them, I am better able to act on them in a timely manner. 

One of the most important things about receiving prayerful revelation is that we act on our prayers right away. When we act without delay, we are showing God that we take Him and His divine, all-loving counsel seriously. The more we act in faith on the answers we receive, the more answers He can and will give us.

I have a testimony of asking questions in prayer, and I know that when we ask empowering questions of the Lord, He answers them. I know that when we practice asking better questions, listening intently, and acting immediately, we are blessed with powerful, insightful, personal revelation that has the power to change and bless our lives and the lives of our families and those around us. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


  1. What an awesome lesson! I bet your relief society sisters loved it!