What is the "science" of prayer?

"The instruction given me by One of authority is that we are to learn to answer the prayer recorded in the seventeenth chapter of John. We are to make this prayer our first study. Every gospel minister, every medical missionary, is to learn the science of this prayer."


Bible Answer

Luke 11:1 (NKJV) "Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”

James 4:2-3 (NKJV) "You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures."

Introduction And Further Information

The Word "Science" is used of many things in the writings of Ellen White, including holiness, Satan, heaven, salvation, etc. When she speaks of prayer, she is referring to (1) methods of praying that bring particular outcomes, and (2) a body of knowledge contained in John 17.

The Science of Prayer as Principles To Understand

Mrs. White refers to the method of prayer as a "science" in the book Christ's Object Lessons when speaking of how we should pray. She states: 

"Christ’s lessons in regard to prayer should be carefully considered. There is a divine science in prayer, and His illustration brings to view principles that all need to understand. He shows what is the true spirit of prayer, He teaches the necessity of perseverance in presenting our requests to God, and assures us of His willingness to hear and answer prayer." {COL 142.2} Read all of the chapter in Christ's Object Lessons.

Some people object to the idea that there is a science to prayer. Perhaps to their minds the word "science" suggests a somewhat methodological approach and therefore diminishes the role of God's sovereignty in prayer. To their minds, the idea may exist that God does what He does and our prayers will never change his timing and plan. There is a bit of truth in this thinking, but also error! As one person somewhat said, God has given to prayer, the opportunity to determine where the blessings fall. From experience I believe this person is right. I have prayed with people and seen specific answers come. The evidence was miraculous, unmistakable and unforgettable!

Secondly, some people may be less comfortable with the practical dimensions of prayer—believers praying earnestly and expecting answers to their prayers,  and seeking to understand how to obtain more answers. It suggested there are reasons why a particular request will not be heard: as one person said to me: "You pray for rain for your garden, while your farmer neighbor is praying for no rain so that he can plant his crops—the exact opposite prayer! Prayers are therefore unneeded in the minds of some people. "Just trust God" they say! I respectfully disagree! Prayer is needed and is the means by which countless wonderful answers to prayer have come. I have experienced those answers, and so have many others.

In my case, answers came when I became more knowledgable about prayer and put into practice what I was learning from the Bible on the subject. There was a time in my life when I was not receiving many answers to prayer. Because I was in a time of great need, and could not accept silence, I determined to carefully study what the Bible taught about prayer and put what I learned into practice. As a result, I began to experience wonderful answers to prayer. 

So, when I am asked to speak on prayer—which is often and in many places, I spend time talking about how to get answers, which is all about the science of prayer.—Dan

The Science of Prayer as Found in John 17

Ellen White also speaks of the science of prayer in regards to John 17. Regarding the latter, she says

"We are to make this prayer our first study. Every gospel minister, every medical missionary, is to learn the science of this prayer." {SW February 2, 1904, Art. A, par. 2}

Among resources that speak of the need to study John 17 as the "science of prayer" are several manuscripts in 1903, Testimonies, Vol. 8, an article that appeared in the Southern Worker, as well as a letter to Dr. Kellogg. Regarding the science of prayer contained in John 17, Mrs. White wrote:

"The Lord calls for men of genuine faith and sound minds, men who recognize the distinction between the true and the false. Each one should now be on his guard, studying and practicing the lessons given in the seventeenth chapter of John, and preserving a living faith in the truth for this time. We need that self-control that will enable us to bring our habits into harmony with the prayer of Christ. {SW February 2, 1904, Art. A, par. 1} The instruction given me by One of authority is that we are to learn to answer the prayer recorded in the seventeenth chapter of John. We are to make this prayer our first study. Every gospel minister, every medical missionary, is to learn the science of this prayer. My brethren and sisters, I ask you to heed these words, and to bring to your study a calm, humble, contrite spirit, and the healthy energies of a mind under the control of God. Those who fail to learn the lessons contained in this prayer are in danger of making one-sided developments which no future training will ever fully correct. {SW February 2, 1904, Art. A, par. 2}

You can read all of the article in the Southern Worker.

Inspired Answer

From the following quotations on prayer we learn additional information about the "science of prayer," including, the "power to move the arm of Omnipotence," obtaining requests in unequivocal ways, and guidance when coming into unity with others.—Dan

"The church may be composed of those who are poor and uneducated; but if they have learned of Christ the science of prayer, the church will have power to move the arm of Omnipotence." {ST September 11, 1893, par. 4}

"Prayer and faith are closely allied, and they need to be studied together. In the prayer of faith there is a divine science; it is a science that everyone who would make his lifework a success must understand. Christ says, “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” Mark 11:24. He makes it plain that our asking must be according to God’s will; we must ask for the things that He has promised, and whatever we receive must be used in doing His will. The conditions met, the promise is unequivocal." {Ed 257.7}

I have said over and over again that there must be unity between the gospel ministry and the medical missionary work. If you [Dr. John Kellogg] and your associates draw off to do the work that you have been doing, I shall be compelled to publish the warnings that the Lord has been giving you for the past twenty years. ... I ask you to study the prayer of Christ as recorded in the seventeenth chapter of John. I hope, my dear brother, that you will see this prayer in its true character. It is a lesson by which our course of action is to be guided. It contains the science that will stand the test of ages. It is an illustration of the intercession that will stand, that Christ is making, and to the end of the world will continue to make for those who believe in Him. {Lt368-1904.9}

Associated Chapters and Articles

You can find the chapter of Christ's Object Lessons and the Article from the Southern Worker on this page. Read them. You will learn much about prayer and the need for unity. In my estimation, the article in the Southern Worker is among the best articles I have read on the subject of unity. 

Studying For Yourself

Use the phrase "science of prayer" to find some of the quotations. You can also put science and prayer without quotations marks to find additional quotes. If you can do a boolean search, try the following: (prayer OR prayers OR pray OR praying) ("science of prayer" OR science). Of course read the associated articles that you will find at