How do you know if you are receiving a spiritual prompting or just telling yourself what you want to hear? For some that is a big worry, said Kevin Hinckley, a psychotherapist and life skills coach presenting at BYU Campus Education Week.
Brother Hinckley said recently a woman who was getting a divorce visited his office. She explained that she had prayed about getting married and felt a prompting to do so. She followed the prompting but some years later was now going through a divorce. She asked, "Why didn't the Lord warn me?"
Going straight to the scriptures, Brother Hinckley read from Doctrine and Covenants 6:14 with counsel for Oliver Cowdery. "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, blessed art thou for what thou hast done; for thou hast inquired of me, and behold, as often as thou hast inquired thou hast received instruction of my Spirit. If it had not been so, thou wouldst not have come to the place where thou art at this time."
"I think latter-day Saints wake up every day with a desire to be led by the Spirit," said Brother Hinckley. They want to be led by the Spirit because they need help with decisions and want to feel direction. In the case of Oliver Cowdery, he needed experience with what the Spirit feels like and was told that the Lord had inspired many times.
Turning to 3 Nephi 9:20, Brother Hinckley offered an interesting concept. The Lamanites "… were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not." He explained the scripture by saying that often times people are receiving answers to prayers but they don't realize it.
The key to receiving revelation, said Brother Hinckley, is found in Doctrine and Covenants 8:2, "Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart." When individuals receive a prompting it whispers to both heart and mind, he said. It comes in two layers, mind and heart. "If we are only receiving inspiration to one, I would hesitate," he added.
Using a quote from Brigham Young, Brother Hinckley explained more about personal revelation: "There is no doubt, if a person lives according to the revelations given to God's people, he may have the Spirit of God to signify to him His will, and to guide him and direct him in the discharge of his duties, in his temporal as well as his spiritual exercises. I am satisfied however, that in this respect, we live far beneath our privileges."
One of the reasons people don't get answers is because they are not willing to follow the answer, said Brother Hinckley. "Sometimes we are trying to tell the doctor both the diagnosis and the treatment." We need to know His will so we can receive His answers.
Brother Hinckley said that as he meets with people who are looking for answers to prayers, he asks them to ponder some questions: "Have you ever had a prayer answered? Do you expect to get regular answers to prayer? How do you know your prayers were answered? What do you expect the answer to feel like? Do you expect to be guided constantly or only when you hit a dead end?"
Brother Hinckley suggested that the Lord wants everyone to seek Him out and ask Him questions. He stands ready to bless us with revelation. That's how He works. A key technique is to call upon the Lord when he is near. While you are feeling the Spirit is a great time to ask questions.
Another important thing to consider is that people must be honest with themselves when they are seeking revelation, said Brother Hinckley. As an example, he asked the audience to consider these questions when trying to get answers from prayer: "Are you interested in your answers or His answers? Are you interested in your solutions or His solutions? Are you interested in your future plans or His plans for you? Are you interested in your present comfort or His growth for you? Do you love your loved ones more than He does? We must trust in His timing," he said.
To receive better revelation, "we must know the Lord's will and trust in him," and alter prayers to understand and seek the Lord's plan. Brother Hinckley then closed his presentation by suggesting people alter their prayers to attain better answers. He called it a "30-day gratitude prayer." It contains three steps:
1. Express gratitude for the multitudes of His tender mercies.
2. Express faith and gratitude for all He's about to do.
3. Seek guidance for anything different He needs the individual to do or change.