Manuscript Releases, vol. 19 [Nos. 1360-1419]


MR No. 1397—Guidelines for Praying for the Sick; Devise Ways to Aid Nature

(Written March 11, 1892, from North Fitzroy, Melbourne, Australia, to Dr. J. H. Kellogg.)

I have read with the deepest interest the letters you have sent us, and I assure you we are interested in the matter brought to our notice. I have written you a long letter, but have misplaced it, and have been unable to find it up to the present time. 19MR 225.1

I write with considerable pain in my left arm and shoulder. I dare not raise my arm, but can write some with my paper in my lap. But I have not time to dwell upon myself, so will come directly to the point. 19MR 225.2

You feel afflicted over the course that some have pursued in praying for the sick. This [praying for the sick] is a very delicate question, and to many minds, I fear, will not be satisfactorily settled. I have tried to act upon the light the Lord has given me in the fear of God. I have prayed for several, presenting a very urgent petition, for it seemed to me it would glorify God for them to be raised up to health, and I would not take a denial. 19MR 225.3

To all appearances several for whom I have prayed have been in the last moments of their existence. My prayer was very urgent, for it seemed to me that my petition must be answered, and they were raised up to health. Now a number of these cases have resulted in something very different than could be desired; for the course of several has proved that it would have been better had they died. One, after having grown to years, became a notorious thief, another became licentious, and another, though grown to manhood, has no love for God or His truth. 19MR 225.4

I have been troubled over these things, and years ago took the position that if I had any duty to pray for the sick, I would come before the Lord with a petition of this kind: “Lord, we cannot read the heart of this sick one; but Thou knowest whether it is for the good of his soul and for the glory of Thy name to raise him to health. In Thy great goodness, compassionate this case, and rebuke disease, and let healthy action take place in the system. The work must be entirely Thine own. We have done all that human skill can do. Now, Lord, we lay this case at Thy feet. Work as only a God can work, and, if it be for his good and Thy glory, arrest the progress of disease and heal this sufferer.” 19MR 226.1

This, in short, is the way I have prayed for the sick. But I have thought that I might quench the faith of others in their intense earnestness, and for some years I have felt that it was not my duty to engage with others in praying for the sick. This was the way I prayed for Henry N. White. But after I have earnestly prayed for the sick, what then? Do I cease to do all I possibly can for their recovery? No. I work all the more earnestly, with much prayer, that the Lord may bless the means which His own hand has provided, entreating that He may give a sanctified wisdom to cooperate with God in the recovery of the sick. 19MR 226.2

This was what I did in the case of my husband. Many, many prayers have been offered in his behalf, but you well know the petitions were not immediately answered. The praying ones became weary because they did not see their prayers answered, and tried to find reasons to explain the delay. But I ceased not my prayers. When I saw that he did not recover, I redoubled my energy. I began to devise ways and means that would aid nature to the very utmost in making healthful changes in the suffering one. Day and night I prayed for wisdom, and if I had ceased my prayers and my efforts, he would have died. 19MR 226.3

When Edson and Willie were very sick, we first prayed earnestly to God that He would rebuke the disease and heal them. Then did we feel relieved from doing everything in our power for their recovery? No. We worked most vigorously, using God's own remedies. We applied water in various ways, praying the Lord to accept our efforts and give us strength and wisdom to use (not drug medication) but the simple, natural remedies God had provided. Thus we were cooperating with God. 19MR 227.1

In praying for the sick, it is essential to have faith, for it is in accordance with the Word of God. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” So we cannot discard praying for the sick, and we would feel very sad if we could not have the privilege of approaching God, to lay before Him all our weakness and all our infirmities, to tell the compassionate Saviour all about these things, believing that He hears our petitions. 19MR 227.2

Sometimes answers to our prayers come immediately; sometimes we have to wait patiently and continue earnestly to plead for the things that we need, our cases illustrated by the case of the importunate solicitor for bread. “Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.” 19MR 227.3

This lesson means much more than we imagine. We are to keep on asking, even if we do not realize the immediate response to our prayers. “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” 19MR 228.1

We need grace, we need divine enlightenment, that through the Spirit we shall know how to ask for such things as we need. If our petitions are indited of the Lord, they will be answered.—Letter 17, 1892. 19MR 228.2

Ellen G. White Estate

Washington, D. C.,

June 16, 1988.,

Entire Letter.