One of the eternal principles of the gospel is the efficacy of prayer. Whatever righteous things we ask for in faith will be granted—in the due time of the Lord. That appendage—in the due time of the Lord—is sometimes overlooked by the devout petitioner. All prayers are answered according to the timetable of the Lord, as the following illustration confirms.
Memories: In the Due Time of the Lord
The scriptures make frequent reference to the phrase “in the own due time of the Lord” (see, for example, 1 Nephi 10:3; 2 Nephi 14:26; Enos 1:16)—especially when it comes to such milestone events as the coming forth of the word of the Lord, the gathering of Israel, the redemption of Zion, and the inauguration of the millennial reign.
How long is the “due time of the Lord”? We mortals often yearn to know the Lord’s timetable when it comes to our individual circumstances. In some cases, the timing is explicit: “Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you” (Alma 34:31, italics added). At other times, for our own blessing and instruction, the Lord wisely leaves the timing open-ended: “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:6).
In our prayers do we not sometimes couch our words in the context of personal urgency and express our desire for the prompt flow of blessings in fulfillment of our needs? I recall as a young boy my first lesson in the efficacy of prayer:
A dense fog descended upon the countryside as our family was en route to a neighboring city one evening for a night at the movies. We crept along the deserted highway scarcely able to see more than a few feet ahead of the car. The headlights made an eerie glow in the impenetrable fog. Suddenly two figures loomed up into view directly before us, standing in the middle of the road. My father slammed on the brakes—but too late. A sickening thud signaled the tragic collision. In shock, we stumbled out of the car to view the two bodies lying by the side of the road. The fog covered everything like a blanket of death. There was panic. The two men who had been hit were still alive but seriously injured.
What to do? I signaled my friend to follow me up the road embankment. We were perhaps eleven years old at the time. Faintly visible were two other vehicles a few yards away, apparently having collided with each other earlier. Moments later several other vehicles plummeted along the highway and crashed into the abandoned cars. Then all was silent. It was a scene of mass confusion. People were wandering around. I suddenly had the urge to pray. So with my friend, I knelt on the embankment and offered a prayer to our Heavenly Father to watch over the injured and protect the rest from further harm. We prayed that all would be well. We prayed for help. Seconds later, the lights of some vehicles came into view on the highway. The vehicles stopped, including one police car. Help had arrived. Things were quickly brought under control. Flares were deployed. An ambulance retrieved the injured and delivered them to the hospital. We later learned they would be all right. It was a night never to be forgotten, and two young boys learned firsthand the power of prayer.
In this case, “the own due time of the Lord” was, miraculously, a matter of only several minutes. In other cases, we are instead left to cultivate patience, strengthen faith, practice long-suffering, and wait upon the Lord until, in His infinite wisdom, the time is right—which, in earthly terms, may seem very long. The Psalmist counseled: “Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD” (Psalms 27:14).
When Enos had his “wrestle” before God concerning forgiveness of his sins, the “due time of the Lord” was a full day: “and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens” (verse 4). It was then that the answer to his prayer came, and the “due time of the Lord” was fulfilled rather quickly. For the Prophet Joseph Smith, the trials and tribulations, the prayers and supplications, extended across endless seasons before his mission was completed.
How much patience is reflected in our prayers? How much faith do we bring to bear when it comes to pleading with the Lord on behalf of our families and our own personal lives? When it comes to the “due time of the Lord,” do we have the courage to imbue our prayers, in all humility, with the essence of these words from the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland Temple: “Thy will be done, O Lord, and not ours” (D&C 109:44)? (Richard J. Allen)