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 Four:  Prayer and Provision

So far, in our survey of the life and teaching of George Muller on prayer, we have seen the role that recognition of need played in his prayer life, and how that need dissolved into faith in the God who could meet that need.  In this section, we will see how Muller’s faith translated into an active prayer life where he routinely and systematically bought these requests before God and waited upon Him to provide.  In doing that, we will take a look at Muller’s prayer life, examining his teaching on prayer and his personal experiences in bringing his specific requests before his provider God.

In his teaching, George Muller was careful to outline a set of criteria for people to follow in order to have what he termed “prevailing prayer.”  Muller wanted all believers to experience the joy of seeing the all-powerful God answer their specific prayers, and thus went to great lengths to inform people everywhere through his journals, autobiography, and worldwide teaching ministry of what he saw were the biblical qualifications necessary for God to hear and respond to the prayers of a believer.[1] The first condition of prevailing prayer for Muller was total dependence upon Jesus Christ.  The second condition of prevailing prayer was forsaking all known sin in one’s life.  As previously stated, Muller felt that God would be compromised if He answered the prayers of those who were not walking in fellowship with Him.  The third condition of prevailing prayer for Muller was the exercise of faith in the promises from God’s Word.  We have previously looked at Muller’s perspective on this in detail.  The fourth condition of prevailing prayer was asking things according to God’s will, not selfish motives.  For Muller, people should never make requests of God for only our desires.  Instead we should make requests of God only as they work according to His glorious plan.  Finally, Muller believe that prevailing prayer must be prayer that perseveres.  God will answer prayer according to His will, but it will be according to His time table.  In these five conditions, the conditions were laid out by Muller and supported by Scripture[2] so that people everywhere might experience the same blessings in answered prayer that Muller himself lived through each day.

However convincing and helpful were Muller’s teachings on prayer, the practice of prayer in his life was even more compelling.  Muller was a man of fervent prayer, who believed that spending time with God should take priority over all other tasks one might have on their agenda.  To this end, Muller himself got up early each morning at four o’clock to spend time in prayer before he started his day.[3] Never were his days too full to spend ample time in prayer each morning.  In fact, he was often heard saying that if someone only had five hours to accomplish a task, then one would definitely accomplish more through one hour of prayer and four hours of work than through five hours of work alone.[4] This was especially true for those involved in full time Christian work.  Muller warned ministry leaders everywhere he went to not let the work of the Lord prevent someone from spending time with the Lord in prayer.[5]

When explaining to people how to pray, Muller would encourage them to make an argument before God according to His promises found in His Word.  Muller believed that God loved to hear His people remind Him of His Word, and therefore, we should argue our case before Him accordingly.[6] Muller was quick to point out, however, that our arguments were never to “convince” God of anything.  They were more to convince ourselves that God would truly act according to His Word.

When turning to God in prayer, Muller found early on in his venture of faith that God loves to respond to specific prayer requests.  As the Scriptural Knowledge Institute was just getting started in their endeavor to minister to orphans in Bristol, Muller came across an interesting verse in Psalm 81:10 which said, “Open wide thy mouth, and I will fill it.”  This verse became a powerful influence on Muller, who interpreted it as God encouraging him to ask for the very things they needed for their ministry.[7] Muller immediately began to pray for all the specifics they were to need for their ministry, including capable workers, a suitable facility, and 1,000 pounds to meet the start-up expenses.  Over the coming year, God would grant Muller all these specific requests.  The money would come in over time, a facility was picked out to rent, and suitable workers were located to work in the orphanage.[8] In Muller’s journal, he included this letter from the first workers who applied to work at the orphanage, “We propose ourselves for the service of the intended orphan-house, if you think us qualified for it; also to give up all the furniture which the Lord has given us, for its use; and to this without receiving any salary whatever; believing that if it be the will of the Lord to employ us, He will supply all our needs.” [9]

Indeed all the specific requests Muller made at the beginning of their orphan ministry were answered, yet one problem remained.  Muller had prayed for everything they needed, except praying that there would be orphans to live in the house![10] Interestingly enough, everything was provided, except they had no children to move into the house just shortly before it was ready to open.  They had not even received one application of a child to live in the house.  Muller then brought this request before the Lord in prayer, and from that time on, the house filled quickly, and they were always in need of more space for children for the next 25 years.  This taught Muller that when it came to what to pray for, nothing should be off limits, no matter how small or assumed it might be.  Over the course of his life, Muller prayed for things as small as that luggage would not be lost on mission trips[11] to things as large as millions of dollars for the construction of a large complex of orphan houses.[12] Muller truly brought all his needs before the Lord in prayer.

When Muller brought things before the Lord in prayer, he recorded in his journals very specific things that he would be asking in faith for God to do in accomplishing his requests.  For instance, once the boiler broke at the orphan house in the middle of winter.  Fearing that it would take long for the boiler to fix and that it might be dangerously cold in the orphanage in the meantime, Muller began praying two specific requests.[13] One, that the wind might shift around to the south and the temperature increase.  Second, Muller prayed that the workers who would fix the boiler might have a “mind to work” so that they would finish the repair quickly.  On both accounts, God answered these specific requests with specific provision.  Indeed, the day the repair was to start, the wind shifted from the south and the temperature went up to bearable levels.  Also, the men who came to fix the boiler asked permission to work all night long to finish the project so that the orphans might not have to endure another day without its function.  When Muller asked specifically, God answered that way, and God received great glory for the work.

On another occasion, Muller was set to speak in Canada, but was stuck on a boat in the Atlantic in a dense fog that prohibited him from proceeding.[14] Muller prayed with the captain of the boat for the fog to clear, and much to the surprise of the captain, the fog was clear by the time the men had concluded their time in prayer!  Muller’s specific requests received specific answers.

Another time, a great drought hit the Bristol area, and dried up the wells that provided the orphan houses with water.  Muller prayed that God might provide them with water even in this time of drought, and the Lord answered this specific request by having a nearby farmer offer his well’s water to the orphanage until the drought had lifted.[15]

Still on another occasion, the orphanage was without any money or food one morning, and did not know where the food was going to come from for the breakfast the children needed to eat.  Muller was not fazed, but brought this before God in prayer.[16] With the children lined up to receive their breakfast, as they did every morning, Muller prayed and thanked God for the food they were about to eat, though nothing was in the cupboards or in the serving bins for the children to eat!  Upon finishing his prayer, there was a knock at the door and the local baker was standing on the other side.  It seems the baker had a dream the night before where God told him to give the orphan house a bunch of bread, so the baker was there to deliver enough bread for the orphanage for the rest of the week.  Further, the milk truck had just broken down in front of the orphanage, and the milk man was forced to give all his supply so that it would not spoil before he could get his truck fixed.  Therefore, God answered Muller’s prayer in a mighty way, and the children indeed did have breakfast that morning!

Though that request showed God answering Muller’s prayer very quickly, that was not always the way it was with all the prayers Muller prayed.  Early in his life, Muller felt that God wanted him to be a missionary.  He committed this to prayer, but for a variety of reasons, this never became a reality in Muller’s life.  However, late in life, when Muller was in his sixties, seventies and eighties, after decades of prayer about being a missionary, God finally granted Muller this wish, and allowed him to speak in over 40 countries in the twilight of his life.  When it came to being a missionary, God’s answer was not “no,” just “not yet.”[17]

Muller also endured great patience in prayer as it related to the salvation of many of his friends.  Muller prayed for the salvation of some of his acquaintances for five, ten, and even twenty years before they came to Christ.  Just before Muller died, he told friends that there were some people he had been praying over 60 years for their salvation.  Though they never trusted Christ in his lifetime, Muller died still believing that God would lead them into a relationship with him before they passed away.[18]

On more than one occasion, God’s delay in answering Muller’s prayers proved providential.  When the orphanage was looking for a long term location for their orphan houses, they located a parcel of land to buy, but were unable to get in contact with the owner for several days despite desperate prayer to contact him.  When the land owner finally returned their calls, he informed them that just the night before God had told him in a dream to sell Muller the land at Ashley Down for a far cheaper price than the going rate.[19] God’s patience in timing resulted in great benefit to Muller and SKI.  This helped solidify Muller’s faith that the timing of God’s answers is always right.

Muller believed that God did not want any ministry or Christian to ever go in debt.  Therefore, he would not commence construction until all the necessary means were in place to pay for the buildings.  That translated into years of prayer that preceded each of the building projects he would undertake before the funds were in hand to build.  From the decision to build the first orphan house to the final construction was complete, it was over 25 years.[20] For 25 years, Muller trusted God in prayer for these buildings, and for 25 years God was faithfully working His plans out over time.  Persistence in prayer was a hallmark of prayer in the life of George Muller.

Perhaps one of the greatest testaments to George Muller’s prayer life, though, was the consistent wonder he had at the provision of God through answered prayer.  Though he saw thousands of answers to prayer, he never lost sight of the blessing this was, or ceased to give God praise for His gracious response.  Not that Muller was surprised that God acted, as faith instructed him to always believe that God would answer, but Muller saw all provision as an answer to prayer.  From one small penny to thousands of pounds, Muller saw each as equally amazing, as they were both provided by an awesome God.[21] May we all echo his praises as we experience the manifold blessings of God in our lives in response to prevailing prayer.

[1] Muller Release the Power of Prayer, 100-104.

[2] For a full run down of Muller’s chief Scriptural support for these claims, see Pierson, 170.

[3] Muller Release the Power of Prayer, 130.

[4] Pierson, 130.

[5] Ibid, 94-96.

[6] Pierson, 149-150.

[7] Ibid, 122.

[8] George Muller The Autobiography of George Muller (New Kensington, PA:  Whitaker House, 1999), 70-79.

[9] Muller Answers to Prayer, 13.

[10] Muller Answers to Prayer, 14-15.

[11] On one occasion, Muller was reported as praying for all the luggage to be unloaded from the hull of a ship after arrival.  Interestingly, at first this luggage was missed during the unloading process, only to be found in an unusual double check by the crew so that indeed the luggage did all make the trip.  See Pierson, 173.

[12] Muller Autobiography, 224-229.

[13] Muller Release the Power of Prayer, 72-75.

[14] Colin Whittaker Seven Guides to Effective Prayer (Minneapolis, MN:  Bethany Publishing, 1987), 15-16.

[15] Pierson, 229.

[16] Whittaker, 32-33.

[17] Pierson, 245.

[18] Pierson, 302.

[19] Muller Answers to Prayer, 44.

[20] Pierson, 212.

[21] Pierson, 202.

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