What Should I Do When My Prayers Aren’t Answered?

After preaching the gospel, baptizing hundreds of people, and organizing the church in the land of Mormon, the prophet Alma led his people into the wilderness. They traveled for eight days, arriving at a beautiful place where they decided to settle (Mosiah 23:1-4). However, they soon fell into captivity, forced to labor under the supervision of the Lamanite army. The leader of these guards, Amulon, persecuted them, “and put tasks upon them, and put task-masters over them” (Mosiah 24:8-9).

Alma and his people began to pray for deliverance, but their prayers were not answered immediately, at least not the way they wanted. Here are some lessons that we can learn from their experience:

1. Don’t stop praying.

When Amulon saw the people praying, he “commanded them that they should stop their cries; and he put guards over them to watch them, that whosoever should be found calling upon God should be put to death.” In response, the people stopped praying aloud. But they continued to pray to God in their hearts, “and he did know the thoughts of their hearts” (Mosiah 24:11-12).

2. Listen for answers.

The people wanted freedom. The first answer they received was a message: a promise that they would be set free. “Lift up your heads and be of good comfort,” the Lord said. “I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage” (Mosiah 24:13). No deliverance yet, but a promise and an invitation to stop worrying about the future.

3. Watch for intermediate blessings.

After promising to deliver the people of Alma, the Lord also made another promise: “I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage” (Mosiah 24:14). This blessing came quickly: “The Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease” (Mosiah 24:15).

4. Be patient.

The people of Alma “did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord” (Mosiah 24:15). Elder Neal A. Maxwell suggested that we learn to say not only “Thy will be done,” but also, “Thy timing be done” (“Plow in Hope,” General Conference, April, 2001).

Today, I will strive to follow the examples of Alma and his people. I will continue to pray even when I don’t see the answers I seek immediately. I will listen for messages from Him. I will watch for blessings along the way. And I will be patient and trust in the Lord’s timing.

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