Does God Help Find Car Keys?

October 14, 2013 | 47 comments
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2013-10-13 EnsignI remember reading a story in the Ensign while I was on my mission. The story was about a police officer who had been searching for a toddler who had been lost when his mother’s car was stolen while the child was still in the back. The mother was desperate to be reunited with her child, and time was running out. The police officer prayed, he followed a hunch, and the child was found and returned to his parents safe and sound.

The story bothered me.

It wasn’t the story itself. I have had miraculous experiences in my own life, and they are an important part of my faith. The problem is that emphasizing stories at all sets an impossible expectation. A narrative is a very artificial thing. They are human creations. A narrative is not what happens. A narrative is the result of a person processing what happens. It is what you get when a person is able to take a series of events and organize them in way that makes sense. Narratives have a beginning, a middle,  and an end. They have meaning and closure. Life, all too often, does not.

That’s not the only sense in which the story sets high expectations, of course. What about the prayers that go unanswered? For every story of a person having a prayer answered or being miraculously prompted to be alert to danger there are stories of prayers unanswered and of senseless tragedies where no warning was giving.

Miracles cast dark shadows.

This can understandably lead to cynicism. Stories of saying prayers to find lost items are a staple of the way we talk about prayer and teach our children. But if we live in a world where God saves some little children from painful death but not others, isn’t celebrating trivial miracles like rubbing salt in the wound? Are we wrong for even asking? Do we really think a God who can bear to stand by and watch tragedy unfold without intervening would really care enough to help find lost car keys?

Maybe.

A lot of the time the things we pray for require interaction with the desires, welfare, and choices of a lot of other people. I was laid off from my job at the start of the Great Recession (along with 14% of Genworth Financial), but there were a limited number of open positions that I could interview for. I did, and I prayed for a job that would let my family keep our home as I’ve never prayed for anything in my life. While I was at it, however, I also prayed that if my desire was not granted, I would be given understanding as to why. I didn’t get the job, but I did get the understanding. Someone else needed it even more.

There’s usually quite a lot at stake when we say our most fervent prayers. But not when we’ve misplaced something. The low stakes and isolation of the problem may give God a kind of latitude to act that He doesn’t have in other situations. And, if there’s no reason for God not to answer such a trivial prayer, why wouldn’t He? I believe that what is “trivial” from God’s perspective includes a lot more than just misplaced items, but I also know that I tend to care about the trivial things my children care about simply because they care. I imagine our Heavenly Father feels similarly.

2013-10-12 God the Father by Cima da Conegliano

I do think it’s important for us to contextualize our culture of miracle stories. It’s important for us to know that the process of distilling narrative from experience can be a long one. Sometimes it takes years or decades to find or create stories buried in bewildering and painful experiences. And sometimes it takes longer than a lifetime. There are things that happen to us in this life that we won’t be able to package into a narrative, and that’s OK. It doesn’t mean we’ve failed.

But I would hate to suppress stories of miracles because they underscore the confusion that we confront in this life. I don’t think we should hate the light, even if it makes us see the darkness.

47 Responses to Does God Help Find Car Keys?

  1. Steve Martin on October 14, 2013 at 8:12 am

    Certainly God can work miracles. And probably does. But we can never be sure, since “the devil can come all dressed up as an angel of light” and do things, also.

    So we live life with NO expectations…in faith…trust, that God uses all things, good and bad, for His purposes.

    Thanks. Interesting piece, indeed.

  2. KLC on October 14, 2013 at 9:02 am

    I don’t know about car keys but I know God helps us find spare change on the street to buy some chicken.

  3. Howard on October 14, 2013 at 9:29 am

    Project Stargate was a US government study of claims of psychic phenomena that found a statistically significant effect in the laboratory. Finding keys and manifesting parking places while in a meditative trance is relatively easy to do.

    When it comes to prayer it is far more effective to ask God what he would have us do with our lives than praying for a specific outcome to a specific situation. But if you do, set your judgment aside and fasten your seat belt, it is not for the faint of heart because it can become a very wild ride that few will allow without significant resistance. The deconstruction of the material life you built for yourself often proceeds the new construction of a far more rewarding spiritual life that he helps you build. Somewhere near the middle of this project you will be looking at scrortched earth where your material life once stood and it will take great faith and walking in the Spirit to sustain you. Sell what you have, give it to the poor and follow me! Few Mormons are willing to do this, instead they pray for God’s power to be imposed on the Universe to accomplish the specific egocentric outcome they desire.

  4. Kevin Barney on October 14, 2013 at 10:03 am

    I still pray over things like lost car keys. I’m aware of the theological puzzles involved in such a thing, but offering the prayer anyway feels right to me, and in that moment I try not to overthink it.

  5. Alison Moore Smith on October 14, 2013 at 10:42 am

    I think God does help people find car keys. Just not mine.

  6. Mtnmarty on October 14, 2013 at 11:20 am

    Tough question about the keys, but without a doubt Satan always helped me find Lover’s Lane.

  7. Matt Evans on October 14, 2013 at 11:26 am

    In two occasions about 10-20 years ago, while racing through the house looking for lost keys, it occurred to me to pray for help finding them, as I’d done before and as I’d heard in countless testimonies (along with testimonies of the lost passports, lost wallet, lost immunization record, lost heirloom photo, lost wedding ring, lost library book). These two times, though, I chose to experiment and to keep looking rather than pray. Both times I found the keys within a minute or two of deciding not to pray.

    My beef with these testimonies is that too few people report when they pray to find something but never do find it. Surely many Mormons have lost wedding rings and keys despite prayers to find them, and I think it’s a disservice that we only hear testimonies about the times when God leads someone to ruffle through a drawer a third time and the treasure IS there. It seems to me that if you pray and God tells you to rummage through the laundry pile again, but the keys aren’t there, then even though it didn’t meet our expectations the experience should still tell us something about God, and why he would send people to (seemingly pointlessly) dig through their laundry again or to check the pockets of every coat in the closet.

  8. jks on October 14, 2013 at 11:42 am

    I pray to find lost items. The thing about this kind of prayer is that it is in keeping with trying to change myself rather than God. I am praying to know where to look and how to look. He can direct me.
    Sometimes when I have prayed I have not continued to look or only looked half-heartedly because the answer seemed to be that the lost item was in a landfill far away and there was nothing I could do.
    What I like about this kind of praying is that is it simple and strengthens my spiritual reception. I didn’t have much “luck” praying about lost items as a kid or a teenager, but as I grew older it seemed to be easier.
    The reason why I think he cares about my lost keys and helping me find them, is that it is practice for the times when I am about to mail something to a friend and I have the thought that I should add something to the package that we don’t need but they really do. Suddenly, I am praying to find where I put that important item. And I find it. Because I have prayed before over lost keys, I am in tune and in practice to listen to other promptings and was able to bless someone’s life in a way that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

  9. Carey on October 14, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    One of the great things about prayer is that it helps us to focus on the little things. Maybe its because they are too close, or that we’re so caught up in our desires no matter how wrong or right they may be, that we have lost the ability to see even the simple things like where we put our own keys.

  10. Jax on October 14, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    I don’t know about car keys but I know God helps us find spare change on the street to buy some chicken.

    LOL… I read this and thought, “who posted this?” and my first glance said KFC. Only after laughing for a few seconds did I realize it wasn’t…

  11. Jared on October 14, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    If we use the scriptures as our guide we will pray about all kinds of things, including lost car keys.

    How we feel about prayer and how our prayers are answered is directly related to our individual faith. Ether 12

    The scripture teach many lessons about the riddle of prayer. Why prayers are answered or unanswered.

    What do the scripture teach?

    1. How often should we pray? Alma 34:21, 27
    2. What should we pray about? Alma 34:18-26
    3. What hinders our prayers? Alma 34:28-29
    4. What other things create barriers to obtaining answers to our prayers. Alma 34:30-41

    I used just a few scriptures from Alma 34. There are so many others and they all teach that Heavenly Father will answer our prayers and even show forth miracles based on our individual faith.

    I like what Kevin Barney said in #4. Keep it simple.

    I might add, sometime prayer can be a wrestle. I’ve gone to the mat many times with the Lord and know from my personal experience that the teachings in the scriptures can be relied on.

  12. KLC on October 14, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    I wasn’t thinking of the colonel, I was thinking of the Seventy:

    http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2011/10/the-privilege-of-prayer?lang=eng

  13. Mtnmarty on October 14, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    Jax,

    I’ll see you a colonel and raise you a President.

    “It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their hands over keys which have been lost without traces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged.”

  14. Jax on October 14, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    Just to be clear, I fully endorse praying in times of need even if it is as “trivial” as car keys. It may help or it may not on any given occasion, but I’m certainly no worse off for asking for help, am I?

    My previous comment was simply noting the comedy of my own error.

  15. Mtnmarty on October 14, 2013 at 8:01 pm

    Of course, Jax, of course. I’m making fun of myself too. Like “when people pray over my lost keys, its not the house or the car they are praying about.”

  16. Bradley Kime on October 14, 2013 at 8:21 pm

    Always always insightful. Thanks Nathaniel.

  17. SamR on October 14, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    This is great, have been talking through this lately with my wife. To me, it speaks of the wider idea in my mind of confirmation bias perpetuated through the availability of an almost infinite number of sources. With such a large worldwide membership, a narrative-based culture, and a hierarchical structure that feeds upwards faith-promoting experiences to leaders who travel the globe, it stands to reason that a leader could find stories and experiences to illustrate almost any idea in a conference talk. Even if you were to remove divine intervention from the equation, the monkey-typewriter law of infinite possibilities would support the production of many “miraculous experiences” (although one could have a larger conversation around whether any good thing that happens is in fact a divine miracle).

    If this is the case, and what I feel Nathaniel’s main point is, maybe we should be more wary of the kinds of stories we are sharing and promoting, so that we don’t give off the impression that prayer is primarily about finding lost things/getting our way, and also that prayers don’t always result in simple resolutions. I’m not so sure this is problematic at the upper levels of leadership (from memory I feel like most addresses from general authorities focusing on prayer have conveyed an expansive view of it’s purpose) but as a general membership–and in the Ensign–it seems like the key/chicken finding rise to the top. I agree with others, praying for keys–as anything else–is appropriate and indeed mandated, but it is the relationship with Heavenly Father that is more important to me than the outcome of the prayer – His constant support no matter what the result of the situation.

    So yeah, my fear is that a consistent display of prayer success stories supports the equation of “prayer answered positively = God loves me”. Which is true, but maybe we also need some stories around “prayer not answered = God loves me”, or “prayer not answered with a happy ending = God loves me” as well.

  18. Steve on October 14, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    Does God help us find car keys? I don’t know. I suppose it couldn’t hurt to pray when you lose your car keys. But don’t start thinking that simply because you pray for something to happen, such as finding some loose change to buy some street chicken, that it is going to happen. Also, I get the sense that people only tend to mention that their prayers were answered when they happened to pray for something and it happened. It is proclaimed as a miracle; as evidence that God exists. But we never hear about the countless times when people pray for things and they don’t happen.

  19. Zee DM on October 15, 2013 at 8:07 am

    Amen jks! I love your insight here.
    “I pray to find lost items. The thing about this kind of prayer is that it is in keeping with trying to change myself rather than God. I am praying to know where to look and how to look. He can direct me. . . What I like about this kind of praying is that is it simple and strengthens my spiritual reception. . . Because I have prayed before over lost keys, I am in tune and in practice to listen to other promptings and was able to bless someone’s life in a way that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. “

  20. Mr. Tabernacle on October 15, 2013 at 9:01 am

    Confirmation bias is pervasive and is really problematic when it comes to storytelling in the church: http://www.thetabernacles.com/1/post/2013/06/beyond-a-shadow-of-doubt-the-curse-of-confirmation-bias.html

  21. Steve on October 15, 2013 at 9:45 am

    Thanks for the link, Mr. Tabernacle. Confirmation bias is a very important issue that all LDS should consider.

  22. Old Man on October 15, 2013 at 9:50 am

    If prayer doesn’t help when in locating car keys, how can it possibly help to find lost souls? Aren’t we commanded to pray over every aspect of our lives? Why heaven is so near with some of the little things may mean that the big things aren’t so big. Yet the heavens reach out in love.

    I think the heavens do help with what we regard as trivia, as simply a means of pointing us to the bigger picture. God helps heal bodies, pointing that He can also heal souls and families if we let Him in. The key is letting Him in.

  23. Rosalynde on October 15, 2013 at 9:50 am

    For years I was filled with bitterness and anguish when hearing testimonies of trivial miracles from the pulpit. If God helped you find your keys, why wouldn’t he save my baby brother from the horrific suffering of cancer and chemotherapy that eventually killed him? No doubt my response was immature, bitter and ungenerous, and I’m grateful that I am no longer filled with such negativity when I hear these stories. But I will never, ever share a story of a miracle or even a perceived blessing from the pulpit — I know how much it will surely wound somebody sitting in the audience. This has made it hard for me to teach my kids, though, since the “lost key” model is such a staple of early faith building. I do worry that as my older children are maturing, I’m unable to either share my own testimony with them or encourage them to build “faith narratives” of their own, because I’m too aware of the biases and blindness at the heart of faith.

  24. Old Man on October 15, 2013 at 11:57 am

    Two posts testify that confirmation bias is a problem. It must be true ;-).

    I am cynical about some people who must share a spiritual experience EVERY month. Everything does not need to be shared. And certainly not every person who stands at the pulpit is sane. But I believe that identifying God as the source of immense blessings, even those that are miraculous, is an action of one truly living within the covenant.

    And if we are unwilling to publicly “thank God,” for the blessings we receive , even with some specificity when prompted by the Spirit, are we not guilty of ingratitude for that covenant relationship?

    I believe problems arise from the way we share these experiences and the intent in which we share them. Witnessing miraculous events, which are essentially manifestations of God’s love, allows the participants and witnesses of these events to feel and appreciate that love with greater intensity. And when one is facing an ordeal (like death from cancer for a loved one), one craves such a special witness. But such ordeals do not correlate nicely with spiritual manifestations. For some reason, we usually have to wait, we have to endure, we have exhibit patience and grow.

    The best testimonies include both the manifestation of God’s love and acknowledge our mortal limitations. Like the account once shared in my ward of two children, born prematurely with serious defects, being granted several hours to live so their father could make his way to his home city’s hospital so he could give them a father’s blessing before they died moments following the blessing. The two young parents testified that they had been recipients of a great blessings during that sensitive time. I’ve never taken the opportunities to give father’s blessings lightly since that moment. I was edified by that account.

    That is the answer. We need to seek to edify each other. Which would be reflective of God’s love, which we witnessed. Not crow about our spirituality. Is it not possible hat God stepped forward and bolstered the very weakest of His children on the occasion we speak of?

  25. jennifer rueben on October 15, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    One of the functions of the Holy Ghost is to quicken your mind.,meaning to help you focus and use your brain’s ability. That process is what I have experienced when centering and quieting my mind by prayer over lost objects and every day needs. Is that the same as the Lord or God being involved in the details of my life? As God made man’s wonderful brain, and as the prayer is effective in providing the answer, I would say yes, As the Holy Ghost is part of the Godhead, again yes. If it helps the faith of people to directly link these “tender mercies” to Heavenly Father? I do not think he will be offended.

  26. Nathaniel Givens on October 15, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    Rosalynde-

    For years I was filled with bitterness and anguish when hearing testimonies of trivial miracles from the pulpit.

    That’s exactly the kind of pain that motivated me to write this post in the first place, and it’s what I mean when I say “Miracles cast dark shadows”.

    What I was hoping to elucidate was a balanced approach. I don’t think we should self-censor stories of the miraculous entirely, but I do think we need to be a little less naive about the implications of our stories. I’d rather not limit the stories, but I would like to hear more expressions of earnest confusion and of faith without miracles.

    It’s got to be about more than just practicing righteousness for the perks.

  27. Kris on October 15, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    Yes, prayers are answered in miraculous ways on small things. I have seen undeniable miracles on finding lost items. I have always admired the wisdom in this as miracles when we are young confirm in our minds that prayers are answered and bring comfort the rest of our lives

  28. Lew Scannon on October 15, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    God didn’t help me find my car keys. He also didn’t help when my son was suffering unbearable mental anguish in the psych ward, despite the most fervent prayers I could muster. Which makes it very difficult for me to understand Matthew 7:7-11. When I read these words, I simply cannot understand them, because they have no connection to the reality I inhabit.

  29. Howard on October 15, 2013 at 6:18 pm

    Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you

    You can’t always get what you want
    But if you try sometimes well you might find
    You get what you need

    God’s ways are not our ways, his solutions are not ours. Non-physical suffering is optional, it is caused by clinging to the way we want things to be rather than accepting them as they are. As soon as we accept them our suffering ends.

    Praying for God’s direction is far more effective than praying for the miracle or solution we think we want.

  30. JJ on October 15, 2013 at 6:18 pm

    Interesting post. It reminded me of an Ensign article I read many years ago by Bruce C. Hafen titled “Is Yours a Believing Heart?” (Sept. 1974). The Hafens were searching for their lost son Tom, after prayer they found him. Elder Hafen then says: “Would Tom have turned up anyway? I don’t know; but our family chooses to believe that the prayer made a difference.” My personal success ratio for prayers I believe were answered as to those I believe weren’t is mixed, but I still choose to pray.

  31. Jared on October 15, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    #26 Nathaniel Givens-

    I hope I can adequately express myself to you and others who feel the way you do that miracles cast dark shadows.

    Rosalynde related her thoughts about hearing testimonies of trivial miracles expressed from the pulpit. I can understand her position but to conclude that members should limit or curtail their testimonies of God’s love because they will offend or hurt others is a sure way to deny the gifts of God.

    The gifts of God are lost because of unbelief (Mormoni 10:19). We should be more worried, much more worried, about losing the gifts of God than anything else.

    If we do as you suggest, Nathaniel, we might as well not talk about successful marriages because those who are divorced, single, or widowed might be offended or hurt.

    If this kind thinking catches on it won’t be long before discussion about success and achievement are frowned upon.

    I know people who have limited sharing their testimonies of miracles because of of the pressure they feel from those who take your position. I’m one of them.

    The major blogs in the bloggernacle have just about eliminated the use of the scriptures in blog post. Now you’re suggesting that testimonies of “trivial” miracles should be targeted.

    The dark shadow that is being cast is not from miracles, but from the lost of miracles among the Latter Day Saints.

  32. Nathaniel Givens on October 15, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    Jared-

    Your version of what I said:

    Now you’re suggesting that testimonies of “trivial” miracles should be targeted.

    What I actually said:

    But I would hate to suppress stories of miracles because they underscore the confusion that we confront in this life. I don’t think we should hate the light, even if it makes us see the darkness. – [Original Post]

    What I was hoping to elucidate was a balanced approach. I don’t think we should self-censor stories of the miraculous entirely, but I do think we need to be a little less naive about the implications of our stories. I’d rather not limit the stories, but I would like to hear more expressions of earnest confusion and of faith without miracles. – [Comment #26]

    I’m not sure what part of this was not simple enough, but I’ll break it down even more concisely.

    I do not think we should talk about miracles less. I do think we should talk about trials more.

    Disagreement is fine, Jared, but at least try to disagree with what is actually being said.

  33. Jared on October 15, 2013 at 7:25 pm

    Nathaniel–

    I believe I understand clearly what you’re saying. I just don’t think the problem is large enough to tackle head on. The larger problem that needs our attention is that we don’t have enough testimonies of miracles. We live at a time where spiritual anemia is a concern.

    Elder Uchtdorf said:

    ”Are we as priesthood holders living below our privileges when it comes to the sacred power, gifts, and blessings that are our opportunity and right as bearers of God’s priesthood?” Dieter F. Uchtdorf, April Priesthood Meeting 2011

    I hope all members of the church took notice of Elder Uchtdorf’s concerns about the men of the church. He is telling the men of the church that we’re not experiencing all the sacred powers that God wants us to have. He went on to say:

    “Brethren, we are faced with a choice. We can be satisfied with a diminished experience as priesthood bearers and settle for experiences far below our privileges. Or we can partake of an abundant feast of spiritual opportunity and universal priesthood blessings.”

  34. Cameron N on October 15, 2013 at 8:24 pm

    Methinks you have the picture, Jared.

  35. Steve Martin on October 16, 2013 at 5:59 am

    God just helped me find my car keys!

    Now…where did I park my car….?

  36. stephenchardy on October 16, 2013 at 9:34 am

    Jared said:

    ‘If we do as you suggest, Nathaniel, we might as well not talk about successful marriages because those who are divorced, single, or widowed might be offended or hurt”

    The analogy is an apt one.

    Of course we should talk about successful marriages, but even there we must tread carefully. If we don’t then we will exclude the legitimage experiences, pain, and discomfort felt by those who feel that their life situation puts them on the fringes of our Mormon society. When my wife was recently teaching a gospel doctrine class about celestial marriage, she gave a quote from the manual to an active and married sister of the ward and asked her to read it when called upon. The sister tried to return it, saying: “I don’t think you want me to read this. I am not in a temple marriage.” My wife’s emphasis in class was on building strong marriages, and she didn’t think that those who didn’t have temple marriages ought to be excluded from the discussion. (She had the member read the quote.) This woman had plenty to say about building strong marriages. It was the student, not the teacher, who wondered whether she was allowed to participate in the class. It was clear to my wife that had she not specifically invited this woman to participate that she would not have felt that her comments would be welcome, because she lacked a temple marriage.

    So we ought to be very careful about talking about marriage and families because many can easily feel excluded because they feel that they don’t fit the norm. A lesson or a comment, meant to build and strengthen, then becomes a barrier to a sense of belonging. Jesus taught that we ought to be extremely sensitive to those outside the norm. He taught that we should leave the 99 and focus on the one. So, when we talk about marriage, we ought to be very aware of the feelings of those who might feel excluded or hurt by such a discussion.

    Now, back to the subject of miracles: I think that Nathaniel Givens said it best, that in terms of talking about miracles, we have no reason to stop talking about whatever miracles might occur. When we feel that God has touched our lives, we ought to talk about it when the situtation is appropriate. But when telling such stories, there shuld be a serious discussion about trials. My late mother suffered from some sort of gastrointestinal problem throughout her adult life. It was hard for he her to hear stories of miraculous healings. “Why not me?” my very faithful mother wondered? “Why won’t God heal me? I’ve asked.” We ought to be aware of the hurt feelings (and testimonies) that can follow, and awknowledge our lack of understanding. We ought to remember that we do, at best, see “thourgh a glass, darkly” as Paul so beautifully put it. There is much that we don’t understand.

  37. Nathaniel Givens on October 16, 2013 at 10:46 am

    Jared-

    I believe I understand clearly what you’re saying. I just don’t think the problem is large enough to tackle head on.

    In that case, I’ll simply point out that we can benefit from a richer diversity of perspectives than simply everyone parroting their version of what the “right” message is and trying to shut down anyone who goes off-message.

    We have a diverse membership, and blog posts don’t have to hit the same “good for everyone” criteria that General Conference talks do. (I also have the benefit of latitude that comes with zero authority.)

    It may very well be the case that most people need to hear the message “More miracles!” but that in no way obviates that some may have different concerns.

    As long as we’re going to tolerate people speculating publicly about theology (and I hope we always tolerate that), then it’s only natural to understand that individual members will often depart from the messages of general conference, and that is not intrinsically a bad thing. The question is whether or not the individual perspectives are complementary. I think mine was. You don’t. I can live with that.

  38. Steve on October 16, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    Nathaniel, just curious, how do you define miracle?

  39. Jared on October 16, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    Nathaniel-

    Well put. Thanks for the exchange.

  40. Amy on October 16, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    One of my favorite comments above (sorry, too lazy to hunt back through for it) pointed out the need for stories of faith without the desired outcome (or before the desired outcome… but maybe mostly without).

    How can I teach that to my kids? I feel uncomfortable explicitly or implicitly sending the message, “when you lose something, pray, and God WILL help you find it.” I’m uncomfortable with my 5-year-old treating God like Santa Claus and sending him nightly wish-lists (though I recognize that may be a stage in her faith-development, and to her credit, she hasn’t blamed him yet when she’s had a bad dream in spite of asking not to).

    Maybe I try to teach her just what I’m trying to learn and to remember. Feels like a mouthful: “God always loves us and is always caring for us. So we can trust that things will be okay, even if they’re hard or even awful. We can ask Him for help to get the things we want, but we should also ask Him to help us want the right things and be grateful for the right things. We can ask Him to help us understand what He wants us to do, and to help us be strong enough to do it, whether or not we get what we want.” That’s a lot for a five-year-old. But it’s a lot for me, too, so maybe it’s not too early to start.

  41. james on October 17, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    Helping us find lost car keys is God’s specialty … helping us sort out polygamy, the book of Abraham, kinderhook plates, all that secrecy about our past is another matter.

  42. james on October 17, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    We are subject to random acts and God seems to not intervene that much. That’s hard to swallow. We want to see reasons behind everything but maybe God simply does nothing now and will lovingly, perfectly sort it out later.

    My friend just lost her husband and now has two 4 yr old twins to raise, alone. She pleaded to have God intervene and nothing happened. Now she is understandably bitter and angry with God. What do you say to her? She cannot understand why God did this to her and the answer is maybe he didn’t? … maybe the cancer was a random event and maybe that’s how it is?

    If you think about it, intervention affects so many people for good and bad that maybe God simply watches to avoid adverse consequences, knowing that life is so short that it really does not matter in the end if we die early or later, if we suffer because of others? Maybe we just need to trust that it will all work out in the end??

  43. Raymond Takashi Swenson on October 17, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    The story you started with specifically included the point that the answer to the prayer was not simply finding the stolen car with the kidnapped child, but it was revelation to the police officer that he should turn immediately into an alley, in a location at a substantial distance away from the last known location of the stolen car. In many LDS miracle narratives, it is the revelation, the insight, the inspiration received–whether preceded by a specific request in prayer or not–that certified that the events that ensued were under the influence of God and his angels.

    In my personal experience, it has been the perception of revelation, of intelligence and insight beyond my own mental powers, that has confirmed the source of the positive circumstances. Asking for help in prayer has as its most important component our listening for God’s answer, whether negative or positive. Simply building our confidence that he is there, that he knows us and our lives, and that in his infinite compassion he suffers with us when we suffer–that is the most important part of prayer to our Father.

  44. Snyderman on October 20, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    I thoroughly enjoyed this post and the subsequent discussion. My two cents:

    I have prayed for lost car keys and I imagine I will continue to do so. One thing I’ve realized over the last couple years, however, is that I don’t really pray because I expect Heavenly Father to tell me where they are (though that does seem to happen sometimes) but because prayer centers me. Emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, what have you. So whenever something arises that starts decentering me, such as not being able to find my keys when I need to be somewhere, I pray.

    So I think that in addition to being more aware of others’ circumstances, we should also talk about the benefits of prayer even if that prayer isn’t answered I’m the traditional sense. I think that would help.

  45. Mike on October 20, 2013 at 11:02 pm

    Sorry if someone already linked this, but someone asked about teaching children about unanswered prayers. I really enjoyed this talk given by S. Michael Wilcox (I think I got the name right).

    http://www.byutv.org/watch/936332dc-9ca0-4d78-984f-61ed1a4b1769/byu-education-week-s-michael-wilcox-2005

  46. Kay on November 11, 2013 at 7:05 am

    This is the kind of theological discussion that can only be had by white middle-class first-worlders. If you believe that God takes the time to help you find car keys…but at this very moment chooses not to lift a finger to save the life of a starving African child…what kind of God are you worshipping? I suppose this plays into the Mormon theories about race and worthiness…

    But as someone who has seen little children with hacked off limbs, I find this discussion the height of triviality and ego-driven self-centeredness.

  47. Mike on November 11, 2013 at 9:02 am

    Yes, and how silly of us to believe that we live in a world where there is “opposition in all things.”

    Let’s change the scenario a bit and suppose that a person has an experience where God provides clear direction in that person’s life regarding a marriage decision (BTW, “not” to marry). Doesn’t that still pale in comparison to the needs of a starving child in Africa? Are you really in a position to debate whether another person received help from God?

    Are you suggesting that it’s a zero sum game, and God only has so much help to give? Do you suppose that when God says “My ways are higher than your ways, my thoughts than your thoughts” he’s just spouting a platitude–that it really has no meaning whatsoever?

    Do you think that you’re the only person who has ever wondered why he/she has been so richly blessed when so many on the earth suffer?

    Whatever your answers to these questions may be, I will continue to acknowledge God’s hand in my life, and be grateful.

    D&C 59:21 – And in nothing doth man aoffend God, or against none is his bwrath ckindled, save those who dconfess not his hand in all things, and eobey not his commandments.