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Eman

Prayer: What is it really?

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Before I start I want to state that I am an active, temple holding, member with a "strong" testimony of the gospel.

With that said, one principle that has been hard for me in life is prayer. SO EASY!...in principle. But what I can't get are answers. So here's the problem. We're taught that if we need guidance we should work it out in our minds and then ask God if it (what we reasoned out for ourselves) is correct. If it is, we'll feel good about it and if not, a stupor of thought. Well the problem is that it just seems like that's basic human psychology. Of course we feel good or peaceful about a problem after we've worked through it and made a decision! because the confustion is gone! So whenever I try this excersice, I already feel good BEFORE I pray (Because I've reached a decision) and so recieve a "yes" answer. And anytime I simply can't decide, I have a stupor of thought (Because I'm still confused and haven't made a decion). Problem is, I don't believe that I'm just that smart. I can't possibly always work things out and arrive at the right or best choice. And if I simply don't know? well, I've never had an experience where pray in and of itself has shed light on the matter (not to discount the possibility of receiving blessing because of prayer. I've definitely been blessed with things I've asked for). So the question for those of you who do receive revelation through prayer, how does it work for you? How does your experience differ from mine?

Thanks,

Eman

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Two items:

1. The paradigm you describe applied specifically to Oliver Cowdery's attempts to translate the Book of Mormon plates. It certainly can be generalized to apply to many other areas, but understanding the genesis of the instruction can help you understand how to apply it.

2. What you write does not correspond with what the Lord told Oliver Cowdery. You say:

Of course we feel good or peaceful about a problem after we've worked through it and made a decision! because the confustion is gone! So whenever I try this excersice, I already feel good BEFORE I pray (Because I've reached a decision) and so recieve a "yes" answer.

But this is not what the revelation said. It said to arrive at a determination, then ask of God. You then went on to say:

And anytime I simply can't decide, I have a stupor of thought (Because I'm still confused and haven't made a decion).

Again, this is not what the revelation said. It did not say, "If you can't decide, ask." It said to ask God if a specific answer you have formulated is correct -- in the case of the original revelation, if a proposed translation was correct. And if it was not, God would confound the thought, specifically so that Oliver could not translate the ideas in the Book of Mormon incorrectly.

But if you just go before God and say, "Hey, I don't know what to do here. What should I do?", the odds are you will continue to be confused. And if you have worked a problem out and feel confident in the answer, odds are a prayer for confirmation will simply reinforce your confidence. So this is not just human psychology; it's common sense. But that does not imply that prayer is useless.

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@Vort

Determination - 1) Firmness of purpose; resoluteness. 2)The process of establishing something exactly, typically by calculation or research.

Sounds to me like it's the same thing. Yes, I know this was to oliver cowdery but it's one of the most specific and detailed instructions for getting answers to prayers that we have in the scriptures, even if in different situations. But as Oliver had to first arrive at the correct translation, so too do we need to go before the lord with a choice made or "a determination."

But back to the original question. If you don't feel this scripture is a good one dealing with my specific issue, feel free to provide another one as I was posting a sincere question regarding a real problem that I have. As you say, if I go to God with problem and no solution, I'm not likely to get an answer. And if I go the God with a solution or firmness of purpose that I've arrived at, then likely I will continue to feel good and thus accept that God confirmed my decision. Now, I never said prayer was useless and even pointed out that I've received blessing as a direct answer to prayer. Although now that you mention it, how is prayer useful as a means of personal revelation if A) God never contradicts the conclusions I draw and B)I always must first find the answer on my own?

To be fair, I recognize the importance of praying for guidance in arriving at a conclusion and truly believe God can and does bless people in this way. But again, this seems more like Him blessing us with what we need to make decisions. But if this is the case, why should I add the seemingly fruitless excersice of asking Him if my choice is correct in the end?

To give a more concrete example. I dated much before I met my wife. When I did, it probably took less than a month for me to know that I wanted to marry. This decision I arrived at without praying and asking specifically about her (though I probably asked for help finding a wife). Later I remember praying and still feeling good about it and so I proposed. In retrospect, and with my experience in prayer, I can't imagine ever arriving at the point of asking God if I should marry someone and being told no as I would have already weighed it out and arrived at a no if it wasn't right.

Now I face an issue where my wife and I are thinking about whether or not to have more children. To me, the very thought of more makes me shudder. I always thought I'd want more (at 4 now) but after actually having them and realizing how much work they are, I don't know if I can stay sane with more. So, If I make a choice (it would likely be not to have more), I would feel good about it and pray and recieve confirmation. In fact, since the thought of more makes me cringe, I can't imagine making the choice of having more and receiving good feelings about that choice. This is what moved me to post this question on this board. It's a tough question and one not easily answered in sunday school (trust me, I've asked in one form or another). To make this more fun, my dear wife is already decided that she wants more, even without praying. I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that if she pray about this, she will receive confirmation that we should have another. And this is where I get confused. Any ideas to help me out?

Thanks,

Eman

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Have you ever experienced the stupor of thought?

Have you prayed to find the understanding you're asking us for? I'm not being a smart-alec. I'm serious.

Yes I've prayed for understanding. Perhaps I was directed to come here? :P As fior stupor, well that's a difficult one. I'm not sure I have. See, I have in the past "arrived at a decision" in order to just have one. Then I would ask and not feel good about it. But in truth, each one of these situations were those in which I simply didn't know what to do. The decision was a false one, one without "firmness of purpose." I didn't feel good about it before I asked, only confused. Thus I still felt confused after the fact.

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Yes I've prayed for understanding. Perhaps I was directed to come here? :P As fior stupor, well that's a difficult one. I'm not sure I have. See, I have in the past "arrived at a decision" in order to just have one. Then I would ask and not feel good about it. But in truth, each one of these situations were those in which I simply didn't know what to do. The decision was a false one, one without "firmness of purpose." I didn't feel good about it before I asked, only confused. Thus I still felt confused after the fact.

I would think feeling confused after the fact would qualify as stupor of thought. So in one way you've felt what we're talking about.

In the situation did you continue to pray and did you come to a decision that felt right after praying about it?

I would like to suggest one other thing. When we are thankful for the answers we know we've received and we express that appreciation to our Heavenly Father, we are more likely to recognize the next answer.

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I would think feeling confused after the fact would qualify as stupor of thought. So in one way you've felt what we're talking about.

But if you're confused before you pray, does it count as a stupor of thought? Or is it just the confusion you feel anyways for not having enough info to make a good decision...

In the situation did you continue to pray and did you come to a decision that felt right after praying about it?

I'm not sure whether I have or not. I think that most often when I've had a "stupor" I've just acted on the best choice feeling frusterated that God wouldn't give me the answer! Yes I try to arrive at a decision but to be honest, I just can't always. And pretending to make a choice, asking God if it's right, not feeling better about it and moving on to the next option doesn't work. (tried that and just hear crickets. ;) )

And yes, I agree, that being thankful is very important.

What I believe is that prayer works differently for different people. Keeping in mind that revelation is a gift of the spirit, and not all have the same gifts, perhaps the use of prayer for revelation just isn't a gift I have. Of course, I could just be excusing lack of faith... But even if this is the case, we're taught that we can seek after spiritual gifts we don't have and possibly receive them. This is surely one I could use....

/Eman

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But if you're confused before you pray, does it count as a stupor of thought? Or is it just the confusion you feel anyways for not having enough info to make a good decision...

It depends on what you decided. Sometimes it can.

I'm not sure whether I have or not. I think that most often when I've had a "stupor" I've just acted on the best choice feeling frusterated that God wouldn't give me the answer! Yes I try to arrive at a decision but to be honest, I just can't always. And pretending to make a choice, asking God if it's right, not feeling better about it and moving on to the next option doesn't work. (tried that and just hear crickets. ;) )

Have you received blessings based on your decisions? Or rather, have you recognized blessings based on your decisions?

And yes, I agree, that being thankful is very important.

Recognizing the hand of God in all things is also important.

What I believe is that prayer works differently for different people. Keeping in mind that revelation is a gift of the spirit, and not all have the same gifts, perhaps the use of prayer for revelation just isn't a gift I have. Of course, I could just be excusing lack of faith... But even if this is the case, we're taught that we can seek after spiritual gifts we don't have and possibly receive them. This is surely one I could use....

Then continue to seek. Ask for the ability to recognize answers to prayers.

I suggest the talk on CD by Gene R. Cook. Its called Receiving Answers to Our Prayers. Its very enlightening and I learn something new every time I listen to it.

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Eman,

I once read an article from Elder Packer, who mentioned how he felt D&C 9: 8-9 has actually made the idea of answer prayers more complicated then it is.

He then shared D&C 8: 2 - 3, as an alternative scripture to share with regard to answered prayers, and then use this in connection with D&C 9: 8-9.

However, in saying this, your question is also my question. I have not yet understood why, I am able to receive answers to prayers for things which really don't matter.

But for things which really matter, like finding a good job, stable job, has eluded me since my graduation from BYU.

If you haven't heard about Elder Bednar's book, "Increase in Learning" this is a great book regarding spiritual growth, and one section discusses answered prayers.

In one of our Priesthood Leadership training, Elder Snow, was the visiting authority, and said something that humbled me, and at the same time, caused even more confusion, is that we must remember that the aspect of prayer should be so simple that even an 8 year old, newly baptized, should be able to start praying and receive answers, in the same manner and as easily as any adult.

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