Perhaps at one time or another, we have all been on our knees searching for answers to life's trials, only to fall short of receiving satisfactory responses or clear direction. Sometimes when we do receive what we interpret to be an answer and we act on that interpretation, we later discover that it wasn't in our best interests after all. "Why would the Lord confirm my prayers to accept this new job and move to another town, only to be laid off a few months later?" you ask.
The purpose of this post is to share some revealing insight into my own quest for understanding why I don't get clear direction when I sincerely ask for it during "need it, want it, got to have it" - type trials in my life.
Recently, a friend of mine came home rather abruptly after a few weeks of traveling in a foreign country. I went to his home and we talked for a time about his experiences and about his new found passion for the Constitution of the United States of America. He explained to me that he was torn between following this new passion to Washington, DC to march with other like minded people on 9/12 ... as a show of support for our country, or use that money to pay his bills. "It sure is easier to let our emotions rule our actions, than it is to provide a measure of control and reason" I counseled. "But the choice is yours to make. And there will be some type of reaction to the choice you make. How you develop from whichever choice you make, will determine in the long run whether or not it was the right choice at the time." If he chooses to spend the money in support of his current passion, and comes home, only to lay on the couch ... and not become involved with local causes, then spending the money had no benefit other than to provide a weekend of diversion. If he chooses to pay his bills with the money, but gets in contact with those who went to the rally and offers his support to them on a local level, putting in place a plan to attend the next 9/12 march in 2010, then he made the best of his choices, in my opinion.
I use this example only to introduce the concept of "Agency." In the Bible, we read of the great war in Heaven, where 1/3 rebelled against a plan of "Agency" that would provide each person the right to choose his pathway back to God. Some would choose a path that led to everlasting death ... and others would choose the way of eternal life ... but each would choose for himself. The other plan presented was to "guarantee" the successful return of each of us, and the glory be rendered to the the author of that plan. 2/3 of the hosts of Heaven expressed support for Agency ... the right of choice.
In order to exercise our agency, the Lord gave us principles, laws, and commandments to follow, and allows Satan, the author of the "other" plan, to tempt and persuade us to disobey. To get on our shoulder and whisper "lies," thus testing our resolve to stay on the pathway that leads to eternal life.
Choice came early after the formation of our world. In the Garden of Eden, Adam was presented with a choice ... either to stay in the Garden and remain true to Gods commandment to NOT eat of the forbidden fruit, or keep God's commandment to multiply and replenish the earth with Eve as his companion. If Adam did not partake of the fruit, he would have been left alone ... and by eating of the fruit, he would be cast out. Either decision would extract an experience. Only by making a choice would there be an "experience" to follow. It would be through these experiences that Adam and the rest of his posterity, would grow and strengthen in character and understanding. As trials and adversity would come to Adams children, they would pray for answers and direction. It seems from reading the Bible and other revealed scripture, that in those days answers to prayer often came from personal revelation and instruction from God himself, or one of his angels When Christ came to earth and taught his disiples they learned to depend upon him for their instruction and teaching. As the day of Gethsemene drew closer, Christ gathered his disciples to him and spoke of the "Comforter" that would come once Christ was gone. It would be the Comforter, the Spirit of God, that would teach and inspire. This would need to be so, so that all of Adams posterity might have access to Him.
What does all of this have to do with receiving answers to prayer? Everything!
If we will step back and look at our earthly experience as a blip in a long line of blips ... then the fact that we lost our job, lost our money, our home, our car, went through divorce, encountered sickness, etc., would not be of any consequence UNLESS we let one of those experiences derail us from taking the pathway of eternal life back to where God dwells. What matters most is how we react ... and what we learn from life's trials and adversities.
Many of us are currently undergoing great trials in our life right now. It might be related to work, money, debt, sickness, relationships, children ... There appears to be a tide of turmoil spreading across our land in the form of adversity and personal trial. Prayers are being sent heavenward by the droves; many sent from persons who haven't prayed in decades, but now find themselves unable to figure things out ... having to humbly seek the attention of a familiar relationship that existed many years ago, but somehow got dulled over the years of inactivity and independence.
Many faithful prayer warriors are even finding their own domains under attack and in need of support and direction. In these trying times, it is more important than ever to understand the principle of Agency and how it changes the way we think about prayer.
If you have had an experience as I have recently, in not getting a clear signal ... a clear answer to sincere prayer, then this next segment is for you.