We can bring the greatest of all liberties into our individual lives by living true and correct principles. This liberty comes to us as we learn to live as though Jesus Christ were walking beside us. We gain this freedom when we invite the Holy Ghost into our lives.
The liberty principle for today is the eighth in a series of true principles suggested by Elder Richard G. Scott in his book 21 Principles – Divine Truths to Help You Live by the Spirit. I will merely introduce the principle and suggest that you obtain Elder Scott’s book in order to truly understand this principle. Elder Scott explained that principles “are concentrated truth, packaged for application to a wide variety of circumstances. A true principle makes decisions clear even under the most confusing and challenging circumstances.” You can see principle #1 “True Principles of Freedom” here, principle #2 “Trust the Holy Ghost” here, principle #3 “Try New Things” here, principle #4 “Accept Promptings” here, principle #5 “Decisions Determine Destiny” here, principle #6 “Accept God’s Will” here, and principle #7 “Power Limited” here.
Principle #8 is the simple truth that discerning answers to our prayers is not always easy. I am so very grateful for my knowledge that I can talk with God at any time and in any circumstance. I often thank Him just for being there and loving me, and I cannot even fathom the emptiness that would be in my life without this knowledge.
Elder Scott spoke about prayer being “a supernal gift of our Father in Heaven to every soul. Think of it: the absolute Supreme Being, the most all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful personage, encourages you and me, as insignificant as we are, to converse with Him as our Father. It matters not our circumstance, be we humble or arrogant, poor or rich, free or enslaved, learned or ignorant, loved or forsaken, we can address Him. We need no appointment. Our supplication can be brief or can occupy all the time needed. It can be an extended expression of love and gratitude or an urgent plea for help. He has created numberless cosmos and populated them with worlds, yet you and I can talk with Him personally, and He will ever answer.”
Heavenly Father, through His Son, Jesus Christ, has created “worlds without end” and yet knows you and me personally. He knows us by name, He knows our strengths and weaknesses, and He knows our every desire. He cares deeply about each of us. Like any parent, He enjoys hearing from us on a regular basis, and He is willing to answer any reasonable request.
Elder Scott continued, “I wonder if we can ever really fathom the immense power of prayer until we encounter an overpowering, urgent problem and realize that we are powerless to resolve it. Then we will turn to our Father in humble recognition of our total dependence on Him.
“However, an individual who lets his or her emotions influence decisions cannot be powerfully led by the Spirit. The inspiring influence of the Holy Spirit can be overcome or masked by strong emotions, such as anger, hate, passion, fear, or pride. When such influences are present, it is like trying to savor the delicate flavor of a grape while eating a jalapeno pepper. Both flavors are present, but one completely overpowers the other. In like manner, strong emotions overcome the delicate promptings of the Holy Spirit….
“Know that our Father in Heaven will always hear your prayers and will invariably answer them. However, His answers will seldom come while you are on your knees praying, even when you may plead for an immediate response. Rather, He will prompt you in quiet moments when the Spirit can most effectively touch your mind and heart. As you seek His counsel in moments of pondering, you will rejoice to find solutions to even your most perplexing problems” (pp. 40-43).
I have learned through personal experience that sometimes I receive immediate answers to my prayers and other times the answers do not come so easily. I have also learned to be very grateful for the immediate answers and to search more diligently for the answers that do not readily come. I have learned to ask yes and no questions because these questions bring answers to me more readily. I have also learned that God’s meanings are not always the same as mine.
About twenty years ago a dear friend was suffering from cancer and sought special medical help. I prayed regularly for her health, and one day I asked the Lord if she would be okay. I received a definite answer of yes, she would be just fine, and I assumed this meant that she would beat the cancer. A few days later, my friend passed away, and I questioned the answer I had received -- until I realized that the Lord’s answer was very true. My friend was okay because she had returned to God’s presence and would continue to serve Him there.
Recently I was praying about some announced ward boundary changes and asked the Lord if the division would take place along a certain road. The answer I received was yes; when the actual changes were announced, that particular road was one of the boundaries – just not in the way I expected.
Elder Scott counseled us to live our “homes and lives free from discord or tension” in order to hear the Spirit better. “Spiritual direction will not come when the spirit is offended by unresolved differences with our loved ones even though they are small. It certainly cannot come in an environment where there is even occasional uncontrolled emotion, disharmony, or anger.”
When we are in tune with the Spirit, we can receive immediate answers to our prayers. When I do not receive an immediate answer, I take a personal inventory of what is going on in my life. Is there tension with my husband? Am I too tired? Am I upset or stressed over something? I also recognize that the answer will come when I am ready to receive it. I have received many answers to prayers through dreams while I am sleeping or in the short period of time when I am just waking up. Sometimes answers come as I continue to ponder the problem. Sometimes the answer comes as I take that step out into the unknown. Since the Spirit speaks in a soft voice, I leave plenty of quiet time in my days, times when there is no background noise like a radio or television.
When we are struggling with difficult decisions – particularly with decisions that cause strong emotions in us, Elder Scott suggested that we seek additional help. This help can come from loving parents, older siblings, priesthood leaders, teachers, etc. Discussing our situation with such people can help us see the bigger picture and give us better perspective – and save us from disastrous decisions.