The Bible faithfully records the prayers of such patriarchs and prophets as Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, Solomon, Jeremiah, Peter, Paul, and especially Jesus. We see an example of this in the beautiful and personal prayer of Jesus in John 17. Ellen White was also a person of prayer. It was a vital part of her Christian experience.
While still a teenager, Ellen found courage to pray publicly with others at her uncle’s home in Portland, Maine. She recalled this transformational experience with these words: “As I prayed, the burden and agony of soul that I had so long endured left me, and the blessing of the Lord descended upon me like the gentle dew. I praised God from the depths of my heart.”¹ She was filled with assurance and confidence in God. This led her to share her testimony with other Adventists looking forward to the soon coming of Jesus.
AN IMPRESSIVE TESTIMONY
In her later years prayer remained an indispensable component of both her public and private experience. H.M.S. Richards, Sr., founder of the radio broadcast ministry Voice of Prophecy, vividly remembered a prayer offered by Ellen White at a meeting in Boulder, Colorado, when he was only 15 years old: “I was sitting at her left hand about, oh, 15 feet from her. The platform was about a foot . . . high, and she had the big thick Bible, and she was preaching, faithfully giving God’s message.” After concluding her message, she and the audience knelt in prayer.
“I can hear her now. She said not “Our Father” but “Oh, my Father.” And from that moment on, it was a personal communion between her and her heavenly Father. In just a minute or two there seemed to be such a mighty power come over that meeting. I felt it. I was just a boy . . . and I could feel that power, until finally I was afraid to look up for fear I would see God standing right there by her. She was talking with Him. She had forgotten all about us, and she was in the presence of the Lord. . . . A minute or two more went by and that whole crowd, you could hear them weeping, crying, over their sin. A tremendous revival—spiritual revival— the mighty power of God.”²
Richards then made a profound observation: “When she preached, God blessed her as a preacher; but when she began to pray, He honored her as His prophet before the people.” The public prayers of the Lord’s messenger brought powerful changes to the lives of those who prayed with her.
PRAYERS OF ELLEN WHITE
In her writings Ellen White frequently refers to both personal and group prayer. The White Estate has records of nearly 40 prayers, many of which were prayed in connection with a talk or sermon she gave. Several are quite lengthy, like the one Richards described.
Here are excerpts from some of her prayers. And while they contain somewhat archaic worship language, they are profoundly personal and tender.
At a morning talk for the 1903 General Conference Session, she prayed, “O my Father, my Father! melt and subdue our hearts. We desire this morning to make an entire surrender to Thee. . . . We love Thee, dear Saviour; Thou knowest that we love Thee. We see in Thee matchless charms. . . . Come, Lord Jesus, come and take us as we are, and put upon us the robe of Thy righteousness. Take away our sins. . . . Banish darkness, turn away the deceptive powers of the enemy, and let Thy voice and Thy Spirit and Thy love come into our souls.”³
While praying at a 1905 meeting, she exclaimed, “Oh, my Saviour, my Saviour, who is like unto Thee? None, none that can save to the uttermost but Thee. We give ourselves to Thee this evening.”⁴
Her heart longed for the blessing of the Holy Spirit as she prayed, “My heavenly Father, imbue us with the Spirit. Let the Holy Spirit of God rest upon us, my Saviour. . . . Come, Thou heavenly Dove, I pray Thee to put Thy disposition in the hearts of the people here today. Thy converting power we want to see, and we want to sense.”⁵
There are also a few personal private prayers she recorded. These are touching and reveal the depth of her connection with God. They draw us to the heart of our loving Father, Savior, and Comforter.
She wrote in her diary, “I awoke at three o’clock a.m. I feel deeply the need of casting my helpless soul upon Jesus Christ. He is my helper. He is my all and in all. I am weak as water without the Holy Spirit of God to help me.”⁶
In a letter to her son Edson, she described how she had prayed, “Lord, help me. I am determined to cast my helpless soul upon Thee. Satan is the destroyer. Christ is the Restorer. This is Thy word to me. I will try to walk by faith.”⁷
For me, Ellen White’s most compelling public prayer is one she repeated on numerous occasions while speaking of Jesus and His sacrifice for us. At her funeral Elder G. B. Starr reflected on his memories of this prayer: “I think I have never heard any other person speak of love for Jesus, personal love, as I have heard her speak. Many times, in large congregations, I have heard her break forth in the expression [prayer], ‘Jesus, I love You; I love You, I LOVE You!’ Some here know that; they have heard it; and it has thrilled the audience. We have felt the influence of that love for Jesus.”⁸
These brief reflections on Ellen White’s prayer life and ministry give us a window into the reality of God’s presence in her life and the way the Holy Spirit worked through her prayers. “Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to a friend. . . . Prayer does not bring God down to us, but brings us up to Him.”⁹ We too are invited to find a prayer connection with God that is like living water for our dry and thirsty hearts.
¹ Ellen G. White, Life Sketches of Ellen G. White (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1915), p. 38. ² Transcribed from a recorded video recollection. Ellen G. White Estate, Inc. ³ Ellen G. White manuscript 16, 1903, in General Conference Bulletin, Apr. 2, 1903. ⁴ Ellen G. White manuscript 170, 1905, in Ellen G. White, Sermons and Talks (Silver Spring, Md.: Ellen G. White Estate, 1994), vol. 2, p. 273. ⁵ Ellen G. White manuscript 142, 1906, in Ellen G. White, Letters and Manuscripts, vol. 21. ⁶ Ellen G. White manuscript 177, 1897, in E. G. White, Letters and Manuscripts, vol. 12. ⁷ Ellen G. White letter 114, 1895, in Arthur L. White, Ellen G. White: The Australian Years (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1983), vol. 4, p. 228. ⁸ G. B. Starr, in Ellen G. White, The Retirement Years (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1990), p. 216. ⁹ Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1956), p. 93.