A few years ago, I wrote an extended piece on the life of George Muller.  I have used this piece in various settings, so many of you may have already seen it, but I wanted to post it again this week to expose it to a broader audience.  In my life, I have never been so moved by the life of a historical figure as I was by George Muller.  I will post another chapter of this paper each day this week.  Let me know what you think!  NOTE:  If you are looking for a great biography about Muller, A.T. Pierson’s “George Muller of Bristol” is outstanding, and a key source in the preparation of this paper.

Day One:  Introduction

Near the end of the book of Hebrews, the biblical author has tucked away two great verses that appear to have no more in common than their resting place in a final set of admonitions from the pen of the prophet.  However, upon further examination, Hebrews 13:7-8 tie together perfectly, and together they form the foundation for any believer’s thoughtful reflection on history.  “Remember your leaders, who spoke the Word of God to you.  Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith,” the prophet writes. For “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”  Since Jesus does not change from one generation to the next, He can thus be counted upon to deal faithfully and in the same character with people across history, from Pentecost to the present.  Knowing that is true, we can look to the example of our “leaders,” both contemporary and historical to see how God deals with His people.

This truth was a blessed promise for George Muller, the 19th century giant of faith who was used by God to found the Ashley Down Orphanage in Bristol, England, along with decades of missionary and pastoral service on four continents.  Muller read these verses early in His life, and it changed His course forever[1].  If Jesus did not change, then that meant that He was still the God who worked His plans in history, and He was still the God who listened to the prayers of His people.  With 18th century saints like George Whitefield, August Francke, and John Newton as his “leaders,”[2] Muller set out to imitate their faith.  Today, believers everywhere would be wise to remember the life of George Muller, and considering the outcome of His life and the fact that Jesus Christ does not change, imitate his faith, especially as it relates to the arena of prayer.

While Muller’s life is interesting and worthy of study on many levels (including missionary service, ministry to the poor and downcast, and financial giving), his life particularly stands out as a shining example of a finite man trusting an infinite God to make good on His promises through prayer.  In his journal, Muller writes, “Every believer is not called upon to establish orphan-houses, charity schools, etc., and trust in the Lord for means;  yet all believers are called upon, in the simple confidence of faith, to cast all their burdens upon Him, to trust in Him for everything, and not only to make every thing a subject of prayer, but to expect answers to their petitions which they have asked according to His will, and in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”[3] Therefore, the prayer life of George Muller is a matter of intrigue and example to all believers.  The book of James tells us that “Elijah was a man just like us.  He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years.”  Over 2,500 years after Elijah’s death, the life of George Muller is again a reminder that God still works through ordinary people to do extraordinary things as God’s people pray.  In his journals alone, Muller recorded over 50,000 specific answers to prayer in his lifetime[4].  Given that example, we now want to investigate further to see what it is about George Muller’s faithful prayer that we need to remember.

Some teachers rely on their spoken words to get things across.  Others depend upon their life example to lead the way.  In the life of George Muller concerning his teaching on prayer we have both.  In his copious journals and annual reports, we see what Muller himself believed and taught concerning prayer, while his biographers and contemporaries testify that his life was a living lesson on faith and prayer.  As we proceed in our examination of his teaching on prayer, we will divide our study into four parts.  First, we will look at how an acknowledgement of need led him to pray.  Second, we will look at how that need transferred into a resolute faith that God would act.  Third, we will see that faith led Muller to make specific and consistent requests to God for Him to act, and God’s specific provision in response.  Fourth, we will see that when believers pray in this way, that God receives the glory for the great things He has done.  By looking at Muller’s life in this way, we will see a faith we should model as we pray.

[1] George Muller, Answers to Prayer: From George Muller’s Narratives (Chicago, IL:  Moody Press), 16.

[2] George Muller was greatly influenced by these three men’s biographies which he read in the early days of his ministry.  Whitefield was an evangelist in America, Francke operated an orphanage in Halle, and Newton was a song writer who wrote “Amazing Grace.”  See A.T. Pierson, George Muller of Bristol: His Life of Prayer and Faith (Grand Rapids, MI:  Kregel Publishing, 1999), 137.

[3] Muller, 28.

[4] Pierson, 73.

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