“Answer to Prayer” is the last short story written by the English author H. G. Wells (1866–1946). It was first published in the New Statesman on 10 April 1937, and subsequently in The New Yorker‘s 1 May 1937 issue, Wells’s only contribution to that magazine.[1][2] The story is told as a third-person narrative.


The archbishop of the story has begun to feel anxious and full of doubt. It seems to him that colleagues and friends who had once been kind to him now look upon him with a certain coolness. He wonders if perhaps, now approaching the end of his career, he may have “made a howler”. He also reflects on his relationship with God; although he prays regularly, he has very little sense of being listened to. The archbishop realises that if someone came to him in a similar state of mind, he would recommend that they pray to God for guidance, but he is also reminded that he himself has not made a personal appeal to God for many years.

Hands clasped in prayer
Praying Hands, by Albrecht Dürer
Wikimedia Commons

So the archbishop goes to his private oratory, kneels down and begins to pray. “Oh God”, he begins, then pauses as he is gripped by “an awful imminence, a monstrous awe”. Then he hears a clear strong voice, neither friendly nor hostile. “Yes”, says the voice, “What is it?”

Next morning the archbishop’s staff find him lying dead on the floor of the oratory, the expression on his face displaying “an extremity of terror and dismay”.

See also

  • H. G. Wells bibliographyList of publications written by H. G. Wells during the more than fifty years of his literary career.