But If Not...

Several months ago, I was in charge of my family's FHE lesson.  As I was searching on www.lds.org for a good lesson to share with my husband and daughter, my eye caught an article.  I clicked on the link and started reading.  After just a few minutes of reading, my life was changed forever.  This is what the article taught:

Often times, our prayers go unanswered, despite our fervent pleading and valiant faith.  It's not because God doesn't care or isn't listening, or because our faith isn't strong enough and our pleading sincere, but because we are asking for things that are not in line with God's will, so He doesn't grant our request.

For example, we often ask that God will help us to have perfect lives by removing all the imperfect circumstances from our life.  You know, "Please help me to stop feeling sick from the flu."  "Please help me to be happy all day."  "Please bless me to have the energy to get everything done that I want to get done today."

But what does God want for us?  He wants us to grow and to become like Him.  And often times, we can't do that unless we experience trials, pain, and discomfort.

"Does this mean we should never ask for circumstantial things that we want? No way! Does this mean God will never answer our prayers if we just ask for things we want? Certainly not!  God loves every one of us and cares deeply about our wants.  He delights in giving us even those little things we ask for sometimes. He knows how to give us good gifts. But above all, He wants what is best for us, and what is best for us eternally does not always include the circumstances we desperately hope for."

So how do we pray in a way that aligns our will with God's?  We follow this simple formula:

For example, "Please help me to stop feeling sick from the flu, but if not, then please help me to have patience with my daughter while I'm feeling sick."

"Please help me to be happy all day, but if not, then please help me to find joy through my sorrow."

"Please help me to have the energy to get everything done that I want to get done today, but if not, then please help me to know what is most important and do that."

Praying in this way allows us to align ourselves with God and to recognize His answers to prayers, even when they don't come in the way we were expecting.  It allows us to have a greater perspective in our trials and to not feel so upset and shaken when unpleasant or tragic things happen in our lives, because those are inevitable sources of growth and learning.

I've been thinking about this a lot recently with all the vast emotions I have been experiencing, especially now that my cycles have doubled.  I could pray all day for this bipolar to be taken away from me, but if that isn't God's will and it isn't taken away, I would be left feeling frustrated and abandoned by God.  I could pray that the shaking from the mania will go away immediately or that the heavy sorrow of depression will be lifted and never return, but if that isn't God's will, then I would end up feeling like God isn't mindful of me and doesn't care when that prayer goes unanswered.  

Instead, I can still pray that God will work a miracle in my life to take this bipolar away, but if not, then I can ask that He will allow me to use these experiences for good and help me to grow closer to the Savior through this process.  I can pray that God will take away the shaking during mania, but if not, then I can ask for help in being patient and enduring well.  I can pray that God will lift the sorrow of depression, but if not, then I can ask that my heart will be softened toward the sorrow of others and that I will be able to help lift other heavy hearts.  

Do you see how life-changing and transformative this is?  Do you see how it changes our perspective to be eternal, not strictly focused on the present?  Do you see how praying in this way and having this kind of outlook is imperative to finding joy through our trials?

I know that God hears and answers our prayers and that He loves us and is mindful of us.  I'm so thankful that He started the process of preparing me for this trial several months ago by allowing me to find this article and apply it in my life before the pain started.  I can honestly say that this is one of the huge reasons that I have hope and peace, despite my brokenness.  I can see that God is answering my prayers everyday, because finally my prayers aren't just focused on what I want, but rather what God wants for me.  

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