You Cannot “Pray Away” Someone Else’s Agency!

One of the fundamental attributes of a loving God is giving agency to His children. A big part of the journey to becoming more like Him is having the independence to learn how to make proper decisions and choose between good and evil. Without this agency, there would be no growth of character or the ability to develop the attributes of Godliness. This is an elementary part of the plan of salvation mapped out in the pre-existence in which we supported!

So, why is it so hard for us to accept that others, particularly loved ones, make different decisions than what we deem as ‘good or right?’ Often I have held conversations with individuals who lament that they have been praying for years for their loved one to change their ways, only to see no progress. They feel that Heavenly Father is not answering their prayers, or is not hearing them, or worse yet; He isn’t real!

It’s important to understand that you can never “pray away” someone else’s agency! The scriptures are examples of individuals who repent of their ways after a heavenly visitation or a change of heart due to a circumstantial change in their lives. Sometimes, as in the case of Alma the Younger, his father prayed for his rebellious son to accept Christ as the Savior, and when his son had a heavenly manifestation, he repented and became a great missionary for Jesus Christ. But Alma the Younger decided to repent and change! It wasn’t forced on him because his father prayed! (Mosiah 27) On the other hand, Lehi prayed for Laman and Lemuel to change, and despite receiving repeated visits from angels, they didn’t change at all! (1Nephi) Found in the Book of Samuel is the story of David and his rebellious son Absalom. Despite David’s pleading, his son never changed. Agency rules, not prayers! So why pray for our loved ones?

Well, in my mind, prayers can be powerful in that the Lord can intervene in the lives of our loved ones who we think are lost by presenting them with ‘opportunities’ or introducing people into their lives that can influence them into seeing the error of their ways. So, yes, prayers can be answered in that manner, but ‘change’ is always the choice of each of us born here on earth. And I might add that we really wouldn’t want our lives to be dictated by others who pray away our agency. After all, there are many people who believe Christians are on the ‘wrong’ path.

So, whenever I get discouraged that my prayers for loved ones go unanswered, I try to put my petitions to God in context by remembering that agency is a gift from a loving Father above. And it’s not my right to take it away from anyone.

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