"Can" is an important word in that last sentence. I have never believed that every prayer is answered (and when I say that I can suddenly hear the Garth Brooks song Unanswered Prayers in my head). I've also always been reticent about asking for too much or being too specific. I don't want to bother the Big Guy unless I've really got to, and don't want to be telling Him what He should be doing! Is this a pretty normal outlook?
However, when I was doing my marathon listen-through of the Book of Mormon the last two weeks of October my perspective was tweaked a bit. There were quite a few things that I understood in a different way in that fast paced format.
One of the things that I heard was "Ask". Again and again, "ask". "ask it", "ask with a firmness", "ask with a sincere heart", "ask the Father", "ask and it shall be given", "ask bread . . .ask fish", "asking for whatsoever thing".
After hearing "ask" so many times--really hearing it--I understood this next scripture in a more real way than I ever had before. 3 Nephi 27, Jesus was departing from the Nephites and counseled them:
"And now I go unto the Father. And verily I say unto you, whatsoever things ye shall ask the Father in my name shall be given unto you. Therefore, ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; for he that asketh, receiveth; and unto him that knocketh, it shall be opened."Whatsoever! Whatsoever! He said "whatsoever things ye shall ask"! Whatsoever is anything. Anything at all. Did you not understand something Jesus taught? Ask. Did you forget something He said? Ask. Did you not follow His directions exactly and got a little screwed up and need help getting out of it? Ask.
But lets not stop there. He said "whatsoever" and though it was following His sermon he didn't say whatsoever you need help with as pertains to this sermon. He did not put limitations on His statement. He said "whatsoever", so ask away! "Ask, and ye shall receive". An awesome promise that I decided to put to the test. I decided I was going to ask for more and guess what? I've been getting it!
Here's an example:
The week before my birthday it rained a lot, like more than it has in the previous 2 weeks combined. I had a whole list of women who were going to go on my birthday hike with me and one by one, as the day got closer and the rains continued to fall, they bailed. I told everyone that I was still planning to go. The report for the day was good and as long as I had one brave companion I would hike to the Summit for my birthday.
Unfortunately I didn't start praying for the rain to stop until Friday, the day before my birthday. It had slowed but was still on and off all day and I was getting worried. I only had two people who were still on my list of hikers and they were concerned. I fervently prayed Friday night that the rains would stop before my hike and that it would be a beautiful day for hiking. I packed up my gear, set out my clothes and went to bed early so I could get to the meeting spot at the appointed hour: 5am.
At 4am I was awakened by a tumultuous rainstorm. I went back to sleep. At 4:45 I woke up in faith and got myself ready. I walked over to the rendezvous point and was amazed at the starry clear skies and that the puddles were nearly all gone from just an hour earlier. My prayer had been answered!
Except there was no one at the rendezvous point. I checked my phone and there were messages from the last two. I was alone, under a starry morning sky and instead of feeling let down and betrayed by my friends or by God I felt my heart swell big and full of gratitude that my prayer had been answered. He heard me and gave me exactly what I had asked for on my birthday: the rains had stopped before my hike.
Since she hadn't gotten a text back Michelle was worried I may attempt it alone and sauntered up smiling a few minutes later. She was worried about muddy slippery slopes and said she was there to "talk me down" if necessary. And also to be the first person to wish me a Happy Birthday. She is the best kind of friend.
We chatted briefly, made plans to surf later, and set off to our homes and beckoning beds. I was surprisingly calm and happy though I had just missed out on completing yet another of my Big 40 goals. I looked up at the gently swaying palms and the dark starry sky and felt a whisper reminding me of a text I had sent to Dave just a few days earlier. He had asked me what I wanted for my birthday and I had answered, "I want sleep. I want time. I want to surf."
As I climbed back into bed I thanked God for answering my prayers both spoken and texted and we had a good chuckle, God and I, about the importance of being specific. Next time I would pray for no rain and a willing companion.
One last note: It was a beautiful day. I spent my 40th birthday sleeping in late, hanging out with the kids with nothing to do, sewing a little project I'd been trying to get to, and surfing with family and friends. For dinner we went to a great Japanese Restaurant in Kaneohe that I can't remember the name of. And it wasn't that expensive!