If there is a question concerning divine aid in The Lord of the Rings, it should be "Which events were divinely aided during the War of the Ring?" not "Was there divine aid in The Lord of the Rings?". The job of the person asking this question is to determine which things are either implied by the characters to have been caused through divine aid, or to judge if divine aid was the only way they could have occurred. Also, it is to figure out which of the divine powers it was which aided a particular event.
The first reason that divine aid can be assumed for the duration of the War
of the Ring has its origins in several implied statements in The
Lord of the Rings and a couple of fragments from the Unfinished
Tales. The longest lasting example of divine aid during the Third Age
of the Sun was the arrival and travels of the Istari. "For
they came from over the Sea out of the Uttermost West" (UT.388). From
the end of the Ages of the Lamps, the home of the Valar and the Maiar had been
in the Western regions of Arda. Even when their land was no longer within the
Circles of the World, the path of access was still from the western shores of
Another piece of evidence comes from the words of Gandalf to Faramir: "Olorin
I was in my youth in the West that is forgotten..."(LOTR.696-697). Taken
with this statement from The Silmarillion: "Wisest
of the Maiar was Olorin"(S.34), the evidence for divine aid grows. Actions
taken by the Valar or Maiar count as divine, given the statement by Tolkien in
Letter 153: "The immediate 'authorities' are the Valar...
the 'gods'...spirits - of high angelic order... with their attendant lesser angels..."(L.153).
The "attendent lesser angels"(L.153) would be
So, the Istari, as Maiar, were both divine in and of themselves, and they were sent as a form of divine aid to Middle-Earth. However they were limited in what they were permitted to do, being required to take on the form of old men and to encourage others to act rather than acting directly by themselves; as Frodo said: "You could not compel us. You were not even allowed to try."(UT.330)
Another clear example is the statement made by Gandalf that "Bilbo was meant to find the Ring...you also were meant to have it" (LOTR.69). This seems to be more than simple divine aid. Instead, it resembles something of a plan. This was done through the use and emphasis of the word 'mean', which according to the dictionary has a definition of 'intend' or 'purpose'.
Gandalf is actually a great pointer towards events where divine aid seems to have made a firm appearance. After the Quest for Mount Doom and the War of the Ring he spent time talking with the Hobbits in Minas Tirith. One of the tales he told there was the story of how he chose Bilbo as the fourteenth member of the quest of Erebor. In the telling of that tale, the word "chance" is used only four times, the first in quotes, each suggesting that it was something more: "I did no more than follow the lead of "chance", and made many mistakes along the way."(UT.322) "...I suddenly remembered the strange chance that had put them in my hands; and it began now to look less like chance." (UT. 324) The final quote makes up the final words of the narrative: "A chance-meeting, as we say in Middle-Earth." (UT.326) There are also other hints throughout the chapter that there was something more to the choice of Bilbo for this quest.
Taken with the wizard's assertion in The Fellowship of the Ring that "Bilbo was meant to find the Ring..." there appears to be more to Gandalf's picking him for the quest than simple random choice. The old wizard put it very well when he said to Pippin that "I dare say he was "chosen" and I was only chosen to chose him" (UT.331).
Gandalf clearly wasn't the one making the final choice of Bilbo as the one to go along on the quest for the Lonely Mountain and Smaug's treasure, and then to find the Ring. If he was, he likely wouldn't have made the mistakes he admits to in the Unfinished Tales. So, if it wasn't him, who was it?
Another maia or one of the Valar? The Valar are a possibility, but it's more
likely that it was Illuvatar, or Eru. The main reason for this being the most
likely choice is due to what happens to Gandalf after his fight with the Balrog.
That is the one incident where there is no question about there being divine
aid involved, as Gandalf said to Aragorn and the others: "Then
darkness took me, and I strayed out of thought and time...Naked I was sent back
- for a brief time, until my task is done."(LOTR.524). It is possible
that he was sent back by one of the Valar, but the part about being outside of
time and thought sounds like he had gone to the Timeless Halls in the Void, which
suggests strongly that it was Illuvatar who sent him back to Middle-Earth.
Illuvatar would also have been able to maneuver things in such a way that Bilbo was able to find the Ring, which explains the phrase "Bilbo was meant to find the Ring...you also were meant to have it" (LOTR.69). On the other hand though, the only known example of his interference within Middle-Earth after its' creation came at the end of the Second Age of the Sun, when he removed the Undying Lands – Aman and the island of Tol Eressea, from the Circles of the World. And that was at the request of Manwe. Still, Illuvatar is the most likely choice here.
There is one more incident, although it was repeated several times, which can have no "natural" explanation aside from outside inspiration/interference. This is the dream reported by Boromir which sent him on the quest for Imladris:
Seek for the Sword that was broken:
In Imladris it dwells;
There shall be counsels taken
Stronger than Morgul-spells.
There shall be shown a token
That Doom is near at hand,
For Isildur's Bane shall waken,
And the Halfling forth shall stand(LOTR.263)
While it is one thing for a person to have unusual dreams, perhaps made up of snatches of forgotten things, in this case, it appears that much of the material from the verse was completely unknown to the Men of Gondor, even the lore-masters. Then, there is the fact that Faramir had the exact same dream as his brother, and in fact, had it multiple times. What are the chances that two people would have an identical dream?
Finally, the voice speaking the verse came from the West, the traditional direction of the home of the Valar, and also the direction from which omens of the Valar were often said to come. The dream certainly had an important role for Boromir, having gotten him to Imladris just in time for the Council, something there wouldn't have been even rumors of in Gondor.
The other representatives of the various folk of Middle-Earth had a reason for being in Rivendell at that time, but still, that they were all there at the same time is stretching the realms of possibility a bit, something that Elrond notes, using the same word that Gandalf did: "chance", and suggesting that they were summoned to that place and time. It is reasonable to suggest that the same figure who chose Bilbo, and therefore Frodo for the Ring would also have been able to maneuver the others to arrive at Rivendell when they did.
Beyond these examples, the remaining situations where divine aid can be argued are those in which it might have been through divine actions, but at the same time, the answer could be entirely natural. The prime example for this is the way the darkness broke: "...too soon, before the date that his Master had set for it..."(LOTR.872). The timing was ideal for the defending forces of Gondor and their allies of Rohan, but was that changed wind a sign of divine interference?
There is nothing saying that it had to be. Our own history is littered with examples of especially favorable weather incidents such as the storm that destroyed the Spanish Armada. Or, the one that sank Khublai Khan's fleet when he attacked Japan in the twelfth century. Not to mention that in this case, the wind is said to have come out of the South and not the West. Had it been a West wind, the odds of it being of divine origin would be greater.
So, the answer to the question of divine aid during the War of the Ring is a definite "yes". There were at least three firm examples where the most likely answer to a root cause is aid from beyoind: Bilbo's finding the Ring, Gandalf's return from death as Gandalf the White, and finally, Boromir's dream of the verse which sent him on the quest for Imladris. For other incidents and events, the answers are most definitely open to debate.
The Lord of the Rings
The Unfinished Tales