Friday, February 11, 2005

Answers to Prayer

Jim F. at Times and Seasons shared some of his notes from a lecture discussion on prayer he attended at BYU. He was describing the comments of Thomas Griffith, a general counsel for BYU. Here is a portion of what Jim wrote.

Finally, Tom spoke of the kind of prayer and answers to prayer we find in the Book of Mormon, of what Terryl Givens has described as “dialogic prayer,” “an individualized, dialogic response to a highly particularized question” (Hand of Mormon 217).

I think that he surprised many in our audience when he said that he had rarely, if ever, experienced that kind of answer to prayer. But that surprise was prelude to another: once when he had the opportunity to speak of such matters with a member of the Twelve, Tom told that person of the absence of direct, dialogic answers to his prayers. Elder X responded, “The kinds of answers you are talking about are gifts of the Spirit. Evidently, you don’t have that gift.” After a slight pause, Elder X added, “Neither do I.” Then they talked about the variety of forms that inspiration can take.

Finding answers to prayer is one of the most important subjects we ever address in the church and I'm surprised I hadn't really thought or heard this before. I interpret this term "dialogic" to mean that a person asks the Lord a question and feels they are impressed to take a certain course. This is, I take it, different than merely feeling that an answer is accepted of the Lord. This latter sort of answer is what every person ought to feel, I think, about foundational principles in the gospel. People ought to reach a point where they feel the peace of forgiveness or the motivation to action upon hearing inspired counsel. I wonder how many in the church do have the gift to receive more pronounced personal direction from the Lord in their affairs?

It would be an error to interpret this quote, as I did in my first impression, that not all people in the church will receive revelation. It is only this particular type of revelation that is being referred to. There is always something comforting in knowing that other people face the same challenges as I do in receiving revelation. I'm grateful that Tom shared these thoughts and that Jim conveyed them to me.


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