Yesterday, during my personal scripture study, I came across a story that intrigued me. The wife of one of our former church leaders, Marion G. Romney, had suffered a serious stroke and sustained considerable brain damage. The doctors offered to keep her alive by artificial means but did not recommend it. Her life was literally in her husband’s hands. Pres. Romney was hesitant to pray for her recovery. The account I read stated, “Because of his earlier unsuccessful experience of praying that he and Ida might have children, he knew that he could never ask in prayer for something that was not in harmony with the will of the Lord.” Instead he prayed, fasted, and studied the scriptures fervently so that he might know the Lord’s will. Finally, months later, he felt that the Lord revealed His will to him and he could pray for his wife’s recovery. He concluded his prayer with the phrase, “They will be done.” The Lord then told him, “It is not contrary to my will that Ida be healed.” Pres. Romney left for the hospital immediately, and give his wife a priesthood blessing. His wife began to recover from that point on (

I had never considered asking to know the Lord’s will before I prayed for blessings. I always prayed to know the Lord’s will when I was faced with an important decision, and I had frequently used the knowledge that sometimes the Lord’s will is sometimes different than ours to comfort myself after a prayer hadn’t been answered the way I wanted. The idea of learning the Lord’s will before asking for something had never really occurred to me. I wondered if doing things this way would save me a lot of disappointment.

Soon, I needed to pick my five year old up from school. Because my husband had the car that day, I walked, pushing my four month old in front of me in her stroller. At school, my five year old excitedly showed me a paddle ball that she had earned by good behavior. She continued to try to strike the ball with the paddle as we started to walk home. We hadn’t gone too far when she exclaimed, “My ball’s gone!” The string had broken, probably the last time she hit it with the paddle.

At the time we were standing on the sidewalk near a large grassy area. Snow covered the ground in some areas. I knew it would be difficult to find the ball, however I had experienced a number of miraculous recoveries in my life and so I had confidence that we could find the ball and told her so. We hadn’t looked very long, before she came to me and said, “Mom we need to say a prayer so Heavenly Father can help us find the ball.” Of course, I agreed. She knelt down in the snow, and I crouched beside her.

After we prayed, we started looking. As I looked, I continued to pray. I really wanted my daughter’s prayers to be answered so that she might have a faith-promoting experience. I had had many such events in my life, including one when I wasn’t much older than her. A beloved ring was found months later, outside in the mud. But I also remembered the few times that I had not been able to find important items in spite of many fervent prayers. I know all too well, that sometimes Heavenly Father tests our faith in ways that make it seem He isn’t listening.

Was this one of those times? I had a hard time believing that He would test the faith of a five year old. I thought about the story I had read earlier, so I began to pray to know the Lord’s will. I thought I felt that the Lord wanted her to find the ring, but I wasn’t sure. In the past I have sometimes mistaken my own desires for the promptings of the Holy Ghost. I really wanted her to find the ball, so I doubted my ability to hear the still small voice. Still, I continued to pray.

After about an hour, I told her to go sit by the stroller and watch her sister so I can look further into the grass. The ball could have gone pretty far if she had hit it hard and we had already looked everywhere close to the side walk and on the sidewalk itself. As I looked, I heard my daughter start to cry. As I continued to look, her tears turned to sobs. The sound broke my heart.

Eventually, even though I really wanted to find her ball for her, I knew we needed to go. I was very tired. My neck and back hurt from looking at the ground so much. The baby was hungry. I finally had to tell my daughter we had to go home.

As we walked home, she continued to cry. I tried to comfort her. I told her that even though the Lord always answers our prayers, sometimes He does it in a way that’s different from what we want. I told her that maybe He didn’t answer her prayer to find the ball because He wanted her to go to the store and buy a better one. This did not seem to please her as much as I thought it would so I told her that we could go back and look some more once the snow had melted.

When we got home, she continued to cry for a little while. Eventually she returned to her cheerful self. But I was still troubled. The image of her sobbing on the sidewalk kept returning to my thoughts. I continued to pray for to know the Lord’s will. I wanted an answer like President Romney received. I was willing to go back to that field with a grass rake and stay there all day if I had to, but I didn’t want to do this unless the Lord told me my efforts would be successful. If this was an experience to test our faith, I did not want to spend more looking for it. To continue to try would only upset my little girl even more. If God wasn’t going to help her find her ball, I wanted her to forget about the experience as soon as possible.

By the next morning, I still had not gotten the answer I was looking for. I decided to talk to my husband about it, mainly because I realized I was over reacting. Fully aware that my post-partum depression often distorted my thoughts, I knew I needed another opinion from someone who was “sane.” I told him the details, and had him read the story about President Romney. My husband is a good man, but there are times when I wished he took his religion more seriously.  Recently I had become very frustrated about this, most likely because I become very critical when I’m depressed. As I explained my distress to my husband, I couldn’t help adding somewhat sarcastically, “Here’s your chance to use your Priesthood as head of the household and receive revelation for the family.”

My husband thought for a moment and said, “We need to see what she thinks the Lord wants her to do.” He called my daughter into our room, and asked her a few questions. He repeated what I had taught her about how God answers prayers, and then explained that she needed to find out what Heavenly Father wanted. He told her, “God wants you to be happy.” He told her like I had that we would go to the store and buy her a new one if that was what God wanted us to. As he talked to her, God touched my heart and I knew these were His words, not my husbands.

My husband helped my little girl pray, and then instructed her to sit quietly.  After a few moments, he asked, “What does God want you to do?”

She surprised me by saying, “Find the ball.” I thought for sure since she wasn’t upset anymore that she would accept a replacement without being troubled that her prayer wasn’t answered, especially since my husband had explained it so well.

We returned to the grassy field. Her older sister came with us. I was a little concerned to see that the snow had not melted completely. My husband and I began to walk through the grass. Only a few minutes had passed before my seven year old yelled, “I found it.” I looked to where she pointed—a spot on the sidewalk in plain sight.

I know I had looked there the day before. We had walked by that part of the side walk a number of times. If it had been there the day before, I truly don’t understand how I could not have seen it. And I also didn’t understand how the twenty or so kids who walked by there on their way home from school had not seen it and picked it up. This patch of sidewalk was almost right across the street from the school.

I’m still not exactly sure which lesson I was supposed to learn from this experience. But I know I will never forget the importance of learning the will of Our Father or the power of a child’s prayer.