Lindsay Lansing: Did God Answer Your Prayer?

Andrea Mantegna's Agony in the Garden, circa 1460
Andrea Mantegna’s Agony in the Garden, circa 1460

My wife just forwarded me a blog post by Lindsay Lansing, who was in my ward[ref]Mormon congregation[/ref] growing up. It was profoundly moving, and so I wanted to share it. It’s called Did God Answer Your Prayer?, and it’s a sacrament talk[ref]Mormons have no paid clergy. Instead of sermons, 2 or 3 members give prepared talks during worship services ever week[/ref] that Lindsay gave in her ward recently.

The talk is about a variety of prayers–serious, earnest, desperate prayers–that were not answered, including Lindsay’s frantic rush through heavy traffic to try and get her son–who was struggling with a heart condition–to the hospital in time:

William was screaming in the back of my car, and I was trapped. I couldn’t console him, I couldn’t help him. I couldn’t even get out of the car to hold him because the traffic was so bad. I came to a fork in the road and I had to choose which way to the hospital. As tears streamed down my face, I said a prayer out loud, pleading for the Lord to tell me which way to go. There was no prompting. I chose one way, and it turned out to be awful. I realized the other way was better, and it then took me 10 minutes to just turn around, all while little William was screaming in the back. I thought he was going to die. I prayed for the Lord to turn my car into a hover craft… to fly me to the hospital. That didn’t happen. I prayed for all the stoplights to turn green, but they all turned red. I prayed for the crazy lady in front of me to hurry up and pay the teller in the parking garage and get into the parking deck. But she had no money. I prayed to find a parking spot close to the hospital, and there were none.

I kept waiting for the time when Lindsay would talk about the prayer that was answered, and how then everything was OK. And it all made sense. And it was all worthwhile. I never got there. That moment, from what I can tell, hasn’t come for Lindsay yet.

And that’s what made this such a profound article. It wasn’t the stereotypical Ensign story[ref]The Engisn is an official magazine of the LDS Church. It often contains short spiritual stories submitted by members, often of miraculous answers to prayers.[/ref] with a beginning, middle, and happy end. It was a real life story: just an interminable, senseless middle.

These are issues that have occupied me as well. Lindsay says, at one point, “I had always heard stories about people losing their keys, praying to find them, and then miraculously being led to find them under the couch.” It’s one of those stereotypical everyday miracles, and prompted me to write Does God Help Find Car Keys? last year. And then, at the end, she writes:

I do not know why God heals some by their faith and others he does not. I do not profess to know the meaning of all things. But I will not let the things that I do not know, affect the things that I do know. One of them is that God loves us. That we are his children. And the Lord’s Will is always the best. I am grateful that the Savior, in his most desperate moment in the Garden of Gethsemane, when he asked that the cup be removed from him said, “nevertheless not my will, but thine be done.” It wasn’t easy for the Savior of the world. He had to drink from the bitter cup –and he absolutely did not shrink. And if I am to be his disciple and follower, how dare I ask it to be easy for me, when it was never easy for Him. In my experience and through it all, I add my testimony to John’s that when I allow the two ideas of faith that the Lord CAN help me, but also complete submission to his will, I have found greater comfort and peace. I hope one day to know the meaning of all things, but until then, I will walk by faith.

I am humbled by Lindsay’s faith, which strengthens with my own. In dark times, I’ve also tried to hold onto the personal conviction that my Father loves me, even if I can’t reconcile that love with the pain and heartache so abundant in this world. We all have our burdens in life, but the burden Lindsay is bearing–caring for a seriously ill child–is one I have never had to labor under. The blessing I often repeat to myself when things are looking really bad is precisely that: at least my children are safe and healthy.

We are made to suffer. But why does it have to be so much for so many people? I think part of it might simply be that the kind of grace, bravery, love, sacrifice, and fidelity that Lindsay is living is only possible in a life that has both pain and confusion. Perhaps we need this senseless, unfair, chaotic, painful existence because it is what makes virtue possible. Even if that’s the answer, it won’t ever be something that allows us to sleep easy. That’s the point, after all. It doesn’t make sense in this life. So all we can do is what Lindsay is doing: hope to one day know the meaning of all things, and walk by faith until then.

1 thought on “Lindsay Lansing: Did God Answer Your Prayer?”

  1. Three thoughts…

    1) I wonder sometimes about Enos. We know he prayed from morning until evening before he received an answer to his prayer. Imagine if he had quit after lunchtime. He could have gone home and said, “I prayed on my knees today for four hours and I got nothing!”

    He could have quit at sundown and had even more cause to say prayer was a waste of time. But he held out and his prayer was indeed answered in its time.

    2) Even in the most frustrating of circumstances, if I am patient and not too proud then I begin to see glittering flecks of wisdom along the otherwise interminable rocks that hedge my path.

    3) I think there wouldn’t be much need for faith, and thereby trust, and thereby love, if prayer worked like a vending machine.

    “Will you still trust me and follow me if I do not answer this prayer?” Is a question I imagine being asked when I don’t get my way. I suppose my answer would be a paraphrase of those old apostles, “Lord, whom shall I trust? With you I have glimpsed eternal life.”

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