15 And when he had said these words, he himself also knelt upon the earth; and behold he prayed unto the Father, and the things which he prayed cannot be written, and the multitude did bear record who heard him.
16 And after this manner do they bear record: The eye hath never seen, neither hath the ear heard, before, so great and marvelous things as we saw and heard Jesus speak unto the Father;
17 And no tongue can speak, neither can there be written by any man, neither can the hearts of men conceive so great and marvelous things as we both saw and heard Jesus speak; and no one can conceive of the joy which filled our souls at the time we heard him pray for us unto the Father.
(3 Nephi 17:15-17)
Near the end of the Book of Isaiah, the prophet pleads for God to come quickly and bring salvation: “Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence” (Isaiah 64:1). He then explains why he wants this so much:
For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him (Isaiah 64:4).
In the passage above, the Nephites get a glimpse of what Isaiah was talking about. Following the Savior’s death and resurrection, during His visit with the Nephites, He prayed, expressing things which they had never before seen nor heard and which were so amazing that they could neither speak nor write them. Approximately 64 years earlier, a group of Lamanites had heard a voice which “did speak unto them marvelous words which cannot be uttered by man” (Helaman 5:33). Also, the following day, these same Nephites would hear Jesus pray again, saying words which they understood but which “cannot be written, neither can they be uttered by man” (3 Nephi 19:34).
This idea that we can understand things which we are unable to put into words resonates with me. I love Neal A. Maxwell’s description of how this can occur in all of our lives:
Some of us have been momentarily wrenched by the sound of a train whistle spilling into the night air, and we have been inexplicably subdued by the mix of feelings that this evokes. Or perhaps we have been beckoned by a lighted cottage across a snow-covered meadow at dusk. Or we have heard the warm and drawing laughter of children at a nearby playground. Or we have been tugged at by the strains of congregational singing from a nearby church. Or we have encountered a particular fragrance which has awakened memories deep within us of things which once were. In such moments, we have felt a deep yearning, as if we were temporarily outside of something to which we actually belonged and of which we so much wanted again to be a part.
There are spiritual equivalents of these moments…. In our deepest prayers, when the agency of man encounters the omniscience of God, we sometimes sense, if only momentarily, how very provincial our petitions are; we perceive that there are more good answers than we have good questions; and we realize that we have been taught more than we can tell, for the language used is not that which the tongue can transmit (“Patience,” BYU Devotional Address, 27 November 1979).
Today, I will be grateful for the things I have experienced which I can’t describe. I will be grateful that there are truths we can understand but which we cannot express in words. And I will remember that my Heavenly Father understands far more than I can articulate, and that my prayers need not be limited to words alone.