Learning and Accepting the Lord's Will

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Learn His Will as We Ask...

As our hearts are thus changed by listening to and following the guidance of the Lord's Spirit and of his servants, I believe we learn something about the attitude we should have as we approach Heavenly Father...

The idea is beautifully expressed in the Bible dictionary description of prayer. It says:

Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them.

As I have gained more perspective about prayer, it has seemed to me that some of my prayers in the past have been to an extent misguided. I hear myself praying in the past, pleading with the Lord to move about the world doing good from my perspective, without a clear sense of "thy will be done" in my orientation. I have too often sought to persuade the Lord to adopt my agenda rather than trying to discover his agenda and make it mine. (We need) to ask with a spirit of "thy will be done," trying to learn his will as we ask.

Perhaps my growing realization about a more productive learning relationship with Heavenly Father is what made me so impressed with President Marion G. Romney's biography written by F. Burton Howard. President Romney, who served as a counselor to President Spencer W. Kimball, is a wonderful example of someone who asks faithful questions. I particularly want to share an account of how President Romney responded when his wife, Ida, suffered a stroke in early 1967. She lay in the hospital for weeks, giving no sign that she recognized President Romney when he visited.

During this period, following priesthood blessings, fasting, prayer, and, nevertheless, a continued worsening of Ida's condition, President Romney's response was one of great reticence to counsel the Lord. If his will was to take her, President Romney did not want to pray for something else. And yet he had said on numerous occasions about his wife, "She is the best part of me. I could never carry on alone."

He searched the scriptures and fasted to develop his faith and learn how to demonstrate it to the Lord. He didn't directly ask the Lord to heal his wife, though this was never far from his heart. Rather, he worried whether he had the right to ask for this blessing. He observed that the Lord hadn't healed President McKay, who was very ill. "He hasn't healed others who are in as great a need as I," he said. "Who am I to ask for a blessing? Why should the Lord answer my prayers?"

He struggled with this internal conflict for some time, continuing to read, to pray, and to fast. One evening, shortly after returning from a visit to Ida in the hospital, where he had found her unchanged, he went to the Book of Mormon and began to read. He read in the book of Helaman about the prophet Nephi, who had been falsely condemned as he sought to teach the people. A particular passage in this account touched his heart more than he had ever felt before. The scripture read:

Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people. And thou hast not feared them, and hast not sought thine own life, but hast sought my will, and to keep my commandments. And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will. (Helaman 10:4-5)

President Romney felt personal confirmation that the Lord accepted him. He "knew that by refusing to ask a special favor without first ascertaining the will of the Lord, he had unknowingly demonstrated the quality of his faith... With awe, (President Romney) fell to his knees. The scripture was the direct answer to many prayers. More than anything else he wanted to know the Lord's will for Ida. He was willing to let her go; or, if need be, he would care for her in whatever condition the Lord wanted her to be in.

As he concluded his prayer with the phrase 'Thy will be done,' he seemed to feel or hear a voice which said, 'It is not contrary to my will that Ida be healed.'" (Marion G. Romney, His Life and Faith, 1988, p.p. 131-142)

Quickly he put on his coat and tie and went to the hospital. Arriving there at 3:00 a.m., he entered her room and placed his hands upon her head. She didn't move or give any sign of recognition. He then invoked the power of the priesthood and pronounced a simple blessing upon her, uttering the "incredible promise that she would recover her health and mental powers and yet perform a great mission upon the earth.

"Even though he did not doubt, (President Romney) was astonished to see Ida's eyes open as he concluded the blessing. He sat down on the bed and listened to her frail voice ask, 'For goodness' sakes, Marion, what are you doing here?' In total surprise he responded, 'Ida, how are you?' With a flash of humor which showed that she was not totally unaware of her circumstances, Ida Romney replied, 'Compared to what, Marion? Compared to what?'" (p. 142)

Thereafter, Ida recovered fully and miraculously.

I am deeply impressed with the self-restraint and the faith of this humble man. He struggled with his own heart to make sure that his question was a faithful one. Notice the presence of the four elements of faithful questions: First, he fasted and prayed to open his heart to God's Spirit and yield himself to its enticings. Second, he acknowledged his need to learn from the Lord by searching the scriptures and asking himself whether a petition to restore Ida's health would be righteous. Third, he gave diligence and heed to the Lord's word, wondering whether there was anything else he could do to develop his faith and demonstrate it to the Lord.

And finally, his entire effort focused on harmonizing his will with the Lord's rather than trying to persuade the Lord. When we have so schooled our hearts and consulted the scriptures, and then receive the Lord's Spirit, we ask "according to the will of God; wherefore it is done even as (we) asketh" (D&C 46:30). Such questions can lead to remarkable answers, as President Romney discovered.

Excerpt from a BYU Devotional Address, given Dec. 5, 1995, by Professor Alan L. Wilkins. (Speeches, 1995-96, p. 99-101).