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Hi Gramps,

I hope I can phrase my question properly. I understand that we all have free agency. I also understand that we can pray to Heavenly Father for blessings, help, guidance, etc. both material and spiritual things can be asked for. We can pray for others to be softened to accept the gospel. We can pray for a child to pass a test at school. We can pray for alot of things. But if the Lord allows all their free agency, then doesn’t the presume he won’t interfere on our behalf even if we pray for him to? For example, to soften someone’s heart. Isn’t that, in a sense, interfering with that person’s free agency?

An if that is the case, that no matter what we pray for, the Lord is bound by our free agency, then why pray at all? And in the matter of Him knowing us better then we know ourselves, doesn’t that make it ridiculous to pray for something that he already knows the outcome? And if He can’t interfere in our free agency, then why thank Him? Thanking him for our health? That is a direct consequence of how we live. Thanking him for our job? That again implies he intervened and thereby interfered with someone’s free agency. Thanking him for our food? Again, we worked, we are healthy due to our lifestyle and we paid for our food or we grew it. These are questions I am struggling with, and frankly I feel blasphemous even questioning these principles. How can I teach my children when I don’t know myself why it is important to pray. Sure you can say it is to humble myself, teach me gratitude, etc. etc., but those are just platitudes. Is there a concrete answer to my query?

Thank you for taking the time to answer my question, and I am sure there will be more in the future. I have added this website to my favorites list.

Dianna

 

Answer

 

Dear Dianna,

Agency does not mean that one is completely free and independent of all external influences, as you seem to imply. Let’s see if we can clarify the term a little for you. First, what is an agent? That is a person who acts on behalf of someone else, such as an insurance agent, who is authorized to act for and in behalf of the company that he represents, and is responsible to the company for the decisions he makes and the actions he takes. When, then, is a free agent? That is one who answers only to himself and is responsible to God for his own actions. God permits us as free agents to make our own decisions. That does not mean the He will not try to influence us to make the right decisions. Quite the contrary. Look at the example of Alma the Younger and his father. The Lord sent an angel to convince Alma of the error of his ways in direct response to the prayer of his father.

And again, the angel said Behold, the Lord hath heard the prayers of his people, and also the prayers of his servant, Alma, who is thy father; for he has prayed with much faith concerning thee that thou mightest be brought to the knowledge of the truth; therefore, for this purpose have I come to convince thee of the power and authority of God, that the prayers of his servants might be answered according to their faith. (Mosiah 27:14)

Alma responded to this influence and become a powerful leader and prophet. Lehi made the same pleas on behalf of his wayward children, Laman and Lemual. In answer to Lehi’s prayers, an angel appeared also to them, but their response to the angel was quite different than that of Alma. All of these individuals used their free agency in responding to the influence of the Lord in the person of an angel sent to call them to repentance. The responses of Alma and of Laman and Lemual ware quite different, using their free agency to make their own decisions with respect to the Lords influence to them-and each responsible to God for the decisions that they made.

So it is highly appropriate to importune the Lord in favor of our loved ones, and to ask in faith for any blessing that we desire. The Lord may respond favorably to our pleas, but He will never force the human mind. In the words of William E. Berrett,

“From the earliest accounts of man until the present time nothing is more apparent, in the relationship of God and man, than the fact that God does not compel man to do his will. Man has been left a free agent, so far as God is concerned, free to do good or evil, to progress or retrogress, to love or hate, without God’s stepping in to force men to a different action. Man might be curtailed by natural law, by time and circumstance, by his own inherent limitations, and by the actions of other men, but God has granted man free agency as far as his relationship with man is concerned, and this is one of the most important factors in that relationship. The poet William Clegg has expressed that relationship in these lines

 

He’ll call, persuade, direct aright,

Bless him with wisdom, love, and light,

In countless ways be good and kind,

But never force the human mind.”

(Teachings of the Doctrine and Covenants, p.76)

 

Gramps

 

 

 

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