The Power and Efficacy of Prayer

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Ezra Taft Benson

Out of personal experience, I know the efficacy and power of prayer.  When I was a young missionary in Northern England in 1922, the opposition to the Church became very intense.  The opposition became so strong that the mission president asked that we discontinue all street meetings, and in some cases tracting was discontinued.

My companion and I had been invited to travel over to South Shields to speak in the sacrament meeting. In the invitation they said,  "We feel sure we can fill the little chapel.  Many of the people over here do not believe the falsehoods printed about us.  If you'll come, we’re sure that we'll have a great meeting."  We accepted.

We fasted and prayed sincerely and went to the meeting.  My companion had planned to talk on the first principles.  I had studied much in preparation for a talk on the apostasy.  There was a wonderful spirit in the meeting.  My companion spoke first and gave an inspirational message.  I responded and talked with a freedom I had never experienced before in my life. 

When I sat down, I then realized that I had not mentioned the apostasy.  I had talked on the Prophet Joseph Smith and borne my witness of his divine mission and to the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.  After the meeting had ended, several people came forward, some of them being nonmembers, and said,  "Tonight we received a witness that the gospel is true as you elders teach it.  We are now ready for baptism."

This was an answer to our fasting and prayers, for we prayed to say only those things which would touch the hearts of the friends and investigators.


In 1946 I was assigned by President George Albert Smith to go to war-torn Europe and reestablish our missions from Norway to South Africa and to set up a program for the distribution of welfare supplies.

We established headquarters in London.  We then made preliminary arrangements with the military on the continent.  One of the first men I wished to see was the commander of the American forces in Europe. He was stationed in Frankfurt Germany.

When we arrived in Frankfurt, my companion and I went in to seek an appointment with the general. The appointment officer said,  "Gentlemen, there will be no opportunity for you to see the general for at least three days.  He's very busy and his calendar is filled up with appointments."

I said,  "It is very important that we see him, and we can't wait that long.  We're due in Berlin tomorrow."

He said,  "I'm sorry."

We left the building, went out to our car, removed our hats, and united in prayer.  We then went back into the building and found a different officer at the appointment post.  In less than fifteen minutes we were in the presence of the general. 

We had prayed that we would be able to see him and to touch his heart, knowing that all relief supplies contributed from any source were then required to be placed in the hands of the military for distribution. 

Our objective, as we explained it to the general, was to distribute our own supplies to our own people through our own channels, and also to make gifts for general child feeding.

We explained the welfare program and how it operated.  Finally, he said, "Well, gentlemen, you go ahead and collect your supplies; and by the time you get them collected, the policy may be changed." 

We said, “General, our supplies are already collected; they’re always collected. Within twenty-four hours from the time we wire the First Presidency of the Church in Salt Lake City, carloads of supplies will be rolling toward Germany. We have many storehouses filled with basic commodities."

He then said,  "I've never heard of a people with such vision."  His heart was touched as we had prayed it would be.  Before we left his office, we had a written authorization to make our own distribution to our own people through our own channels.

It is soul-satisfying to know that God is mindful of us and ready to respond when we place our trust in Him and do that which is right.  There is no place for fear among men and women who place their trust in the Almighty, who do not hesitate to humble themselves in seeking divine guidance through prayer.

Though persecutions arise, though reverses come, in prayer we can find reassurance, for God will speak peace to the soul.  That peace, that spirit of serenity, is life's greatest blessing.

As a boy in the Aaronic Priesthood, I learned this little poem about prayer.  It has remained with me:

I know not by what methods rare, 
But this I know, God answers prayer. 
I know that He has given His Word, 
Which tells me prayer is always heard 
And will be answered, soon or late. 
And so I pray and calmly wait. 
I know not if the blessing sought 
Will come in just the way I thought; 
But leave my prayers with Him alone, 
Whose will is wiser than my own, 
Assured that He will grant my quest, 
Or send some answer far more blest.

(Eliza M. Hickok, "Prayer," Best Loved Religious Poems,  ed. James Gilchrist Lawson, New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1933, p. 160.)

Testimony of Prayer

I bear witness to you, my beloved brethren and sisters, that God lives.  He is not dead.  I bear testimony that God our Father and His Beloved Son, our Savior and Redeemer, did in very deed appear to Joseph Smith.  I know this as I know that I live.  I testify there is a God in heaven who hears and answers prayer.  I know this to be true. 

I would humbly urge all within the sound of my voice member and nonmember alike--to keep in close touch with our Father in heaven through prayer.  Never before in this gospel dispensation has there been a greater need for prayer.

That we will constantly depend upon our Heavenly Father and conscientiously strive to improve our communication with Him is my earnest plea, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Excerpt from  Ezra Taft Benson,  "Prayer" - Gen. Conf.,  April 1977