I recently finished a book for my Personal Spiritual Disciplines class about a man named George Muller. I think the back cover sums it up concisely:
“George Muller’s life is a powerful answer to modern scepticism.
His name has become a by-word for faith throughout the word. In the early 1830′s he embarked upon an extraordinary adventure. Disturbed by the faithlessness of the Church in general, he longed to have something to point to as ‘visible proof that our God and Father is the same faithful creator as he ever was.’
Praying in every penny of the costs, he supervised the building of five large orphanages housing thousands of children. Under no circumstances would any individual ever be asked for money or materials. He was more successful than anyone could have believed possible and is as much an example to our generation, as he was to his.”
In short, over the next sixty-three years, Muller saw over one and a half million pounds (at that day’s valuation) pass through his hands, and over 10,000 orphans were cared for. He never asked ANYONE for money and never revealed the state of the finances of the orphanages except at the annual meeting. The book is filled with amazing stories of God’s provision in response to prayer, so much so that they begin to get quite redundant.
My reaction to the book, and to George Muller, was undoubtedly mixed. Part of me kept telling myself that Muller was a special case, was irresponsible, etc… (often in the early days they would run out of food after breakfast and not know where lunch was going to come from, but the children never missed a meal and never knew). God certainly provides for us through natural means as well. Sometimes I would think, well, if everyone lived like George Muller, the world would fall apart. But the testimony of his entire life is enough to respond to any skeptic. God never failed to provide what he needed, and not only that, but to entrust more and more to him.
There’s nothing more inspirational when it comes to prayer than seeing testimonies like this. Seeing as it is probably wise to listen to what men like Muller have to say about prayer, here are a few “conditions” of prayer that he commonly taught in his sermons:
1) Our prayers must be according to God’s will. [In other words, his clearly revealed will in the Scripture.] 1 Jn 5:14
2) We mustn’t ask on account of our own goodness or merit, but “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ”. Jn 14:13-14
3) If you are living in conscious, unrepentant sin you may not expect your prayers to be answered. Ps 66:18
4) We must exercise faith in the power and willingness of God to answer our prayers. In other words, we should believe that God is able to answer and that he wants to work through our prayers. Mark 11:24
Muller especially emphasized this point, because it is where he thought most people failed in prayer. An outrageous quote: “I have found invariably that in the fifty-four years and nine months during which I have been a believer, that if I only believed I was sure to get, in God’s time, the thing I asked for. To see that he is able, you have only to look at the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ; for having raised Him from the dead, He must have almighty power. As to the love of God, you have only to look to the cross of Christ, and see His love in not sparing His Son, in not withholding Him from death. With these proofs of the power and love of God, assuredly, if we believe, we shall receive – we shall obtain.”
5) We have to continue patiently waiting on God until the blessing we seek is granted.
“For observe, nothing is said in the text as to the time in which, or the circumstances under which, the prayer is to be answered. He wants us to prove that we have confidence in him, and to take our place as creatures before the Creator.” [The parable of the widow seeking justice comes to mind here.] Muller gave several reasons for delay in answers to prayer:
1) The need to exercise our faith
2) God may be glorified through our patience
3) Our heart may not yet be prepared for the answer to prayer.
As a response to Muller’s life of prayer (and his written record of over 30,000 answers to prayer in the same hour or the same day) I have been seriously challenged to continue in prayer, and I want to extend that challenge to you. First, I encourage you to read about Muller’s life in this excellent book. Second, I want to challenge you to begin praying for something – anything – that you want or need or desire. Review the conditions above, and continue to pray until you see God respond; believing that He will, even if it is after your death. Pray for it every day. Maybe it is the salvation of a friend, or defeat of a particular habit of sinfulness in your life. I think you will be surprised to see how quickly and willingly the Lord will respond to the prayers of his people, if they are truly made in faith and for his glory.
The book: George Muller: Delighted in God