A Different Answer to Our Prayer

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“A Different Answer to Our Prayer,” Ensign, Aug. 2000, 62–63

A Different Answer to Our Prayer

As our family was leaving Salt Lake City to drive to California for a vacation, my wife, Shelli, reminded us that we had not yet said a prayer. I had checked our van and made all the precautions I could, but the van was 15 years old. Our oldest son, David, said a prayer that the van would run well. I felt grateful for the added protection of prayer.

Everything went well until Shelli was driving early in the morning about two miles north of Baker, California. The van started to backfire and make terrible noises. At first we thought it was a flat tire but soon realized we were having engine trouble. Shelli turned off the ignition. Because the way was downhill, she was able to coast the van into town. We rolled to a stop in front of a garage that was not yet open for the day.

I stepped out and began inspecting the engine. I had recently replaced the timing chain and the distributor, but now the rotor was turning too easily, indicating an internal problem. Because of limited space, I had decided not to bring my tools with us, and now I regretted that decision.

As I began to hypothesize to my wife what I felt the problems were, I heard a question from the backseat: “Why did the van break down when we prayed it wouldn’t?”

Before I could answer, a tow truck pulled in with another stranded family who needed to wait for the garage to open. “Look how blessed we are,” I said to the children. “Because the van broke down where it did, we did not have to wait for a tow truck out on that dark highway.”

I walked over to see if I could help the other family. The man said his vehicle had experienced a complete electrical failure. I told him that I had some background in electricity and that maybe together we could fix it. After some time we found a bad connector on a spliced wire. We repaired it, and the car started right up.

Then the man asked if he could help me. I told him I wasn’t sure what the problem was. But as I spoke, I had one of those inspired thoughts I had heard about but seldom experienced. I remembered that the gear at the bottom of the distributor was held on by a shear pin, and I realized the pin had probably failed. I asked the man if I could borrow a wrench so I could remove the distributor and check the gear. I was not surprised to find the shear pin broken.

I thought that as soon as the garage opened, I would be able to buy a new pin and we would be on our way. It wasn’t that easy, however. The garage didn’t have the pin or anything like it, and a gas station across town had some shear pins but none the right size. Finally I checked the last place in town, a hardware store, but again to no avail. I went back to the van discouraged with the thought that we would be stranded until the part arrived.

But then I began to search the van for anything resembling a shear pin. In a box of car supplies, I found a roofing nail that fit almost perfectly into the hole. I broke off the head, placed the nail through the gear and shaft of the distributor, and secured the ends. Within a few minutes we were back on the road and feeling very grateful.

That nail made it all the way to my brother’s house in San Jacinto and back to Salt Lake City, where I was finally able to exchange it for the correct part. We learned that Heavenly Father really does answer our prayers, though not always in the straightforward way we expect.