Gospel Q&A is a series from LDS Daily that strives to answer important gospel questions from readers. Today, we answer the question, “Why does it feel like my prayers aren’t reaching God? I know He is there and He listens.”
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The feeling of distance from God as we pray can be exquisite. Prayer is meant to be a sacred time of communion and care. If you feel like your prayers are bouncing off the ceilings, it’s easy to feel alone or abandoned. Here are just a few thoughts on why you may feel like this and what you can do about it.
Aligning My Will
I feel most alone in prayer when I’m in deep pain and want a specific response. I become so focused on wanting God to respond exactly as I wish that I forget He may answer differently. My heart is hardened to my own will and desires—there just isn’t room for His answer.
The good news is God is loving and patient. He knows our hearts and will sit with us until we have settled a bit. Then, He entreats us to catch His vision. He offers small signs that He is near us. If you feel like God isn’t answering your prayers, open your mind to the unexpected! You never know where you will find God working on your behalf. One of the best ways to see God’s hand in your life is to keep a gratitude journal. Something that’s changed my life? Before my nightly prayers, which are my most meaningful prayers, I write down what I’m grateful for and what I need. I then use this as a guide for my prayers. It has helped me feel more connected.
Investing in Prayer & Study
God has revealed a pattern for receiving answers. All too often, I say my prayers, wait a few minutes, feel alone, and climb into bed. Even when I feel like I’ve prayed for days or weeks in tears, I can honestly say I don’t connect my prayers with my study. They are two separate things and I don’t think that allows for flowing communication between God and myself. I love this quote from Elder Richard G. Scott.
“When I am faced with a very difficult matter, this is how I try to understand what to do. I fast. I pray to find and understand scriptures that will be helpful. That process is cyclical. I start reading a passage of scripture; I ponder what the verse means and pray for inspiration. I then ponder and pray to know if I have captured all the Lord wants me to do. Often more impressions come with increased understanding of doctrine. I have found that pattern to be a good way to learn from the scriptures.”
I’ve begun trying to leave time for study and prayer at the same time. I write in my prayer journal and pray. Then, open my scriptures and ponder. I may write down more of my feelings and then pray again. Invest in the process. Give God time to touch your heart through His word. There’s a reason we have the saying, “If you want to talk to God, pray. If you want God to talk to you, read the scriptures.”
A Chance to Be Confident
There are times when, in spite of our best efforts, we will not feel the guiding influence of God in our lives. When this occurs, we may become frantic and upset. We may distance ourselves further from God. It’s important to frame these experiences as opportunities to trust in God and act in faith. Are we confident enough in ourselves and in God to keep moving forward, even if we don’t feel Him close? Can we wait upon the Lord?
S. Michael Wilcox once taught the following principle:
“We begin to assume that, number one, He is not there. That is why He’s not responding. And then we calm down and understand that He is there; He is always there. Then the second assumption is if He is there, He must not be listening. And then again, in calmer times—He always listens. Well then the third assumption is He must not care. No—He’s there, He listens, He cares. Maybe the most dangerous assumption, the fourth assumption is I must not be worthy. Now that fourth assumption we are probably correct on. But when has that ever stopped Him from responding; we are as worthy as we can be. We must assume that we have not yet reached the fourth watch; and He is a fourth watch God.”
Look for ways to connect with God more deeply. Study how to make your prayers more about strengthening your covenant relationship with God. Don’t give up!
Disclaimer: While all of our answers will use scriptures and/or words of modern prophets, we do not represent The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We don’t believe any of our answers are comprehensive.