An ordinary person trusting an all-sufficient God can accomplish astounding things. One of the great testimonies of that truth is George Mueller, a man whose life is a call to powerful, purposeful, persistent prayer. It can seem unbelievable on the surface, but history bears out the extraordinary deeds attributed to this simple man of faith and his quite petitions before God.
However, while his life’s work became a demonstration of God’s willingness to faithfully answer prayers, Mueller’s youth and young adult years were filled with the exploits all too common to mankind.
A native Prussia, George grew up in the early 1800s wanting for nothing as the son of a tax-collector who ensured his son had both money and a good education. Nevertheless, accounts of Mueller’s life show he turned to sinful pursuits and had a poor reputation for stealing from both his father and others. Even when his dad sent young George to classical school to become a Lutheran clergyman, the sinful ways persisted.
His deceitful life escalated as George went from one hotel to another in the company of a woman as he reveled in the life of a lustful pleasure-seeker without the funds to pay for it. The lifestyle eventually led to his imprisonment, but he was rescued from his predicament a month later by his dear old dad. Then, in another bout of self-centered entitlement, Mueller forged legal documents for the purpose of a depraved excursion to Switzerland. As George described that period in his life, there was almost no form of sin in which he didn’t partake.
Fortunately for more than 10,000 British orphans, 120,000 children who received educational training, and all who take heed of his prayer-filled life, George Mueller’s story doesn’t end there.
The turning point in George’s life came at the age of 20 while he was studying theology at University of Halle. In November 1825, one of his friends – a man named Beta – invited the playboy to a Bible study at someone’s home. Although he went, the miscreant apologized for his presence upon his arrival. Instead of disdain or condemnation, he was told, “Come as often as you please; house and heart are open to you.”
There, in the midst of those Christians who welcomed him, George encountered something for which he had been searching in all the wrong places. He was touched by the hymns, study of God’s word, and printed sermon, but it was the group’s prayer on bended knee that penetrated his heart. Concerning the encounter, Mueller wrote, “This kneeling down made a deep impression upon me, for I had never either seen any one on his knees nor had I ever myself prayed on my knees.”
“When we walked home, I said to Beta, ‘All we have seen on our journey to Switzerland and all our former pleasures are as nothing in comparison with this evening.’ Whether I fell on my knees when I returned home I do not remember, but this I know, that I lay peaceful and happy in my bed. This shows that the Lord may begin His work in different ways. For I have not the least doubt that on that evening, He began a work of grace in me.”
In a letter that was published several years after his death in an August 1902 edition of “British Christian”, Mueller recounted that time in his life this way. “I became a believer in the Lord Jesus in the beginning of November 1825, now sixty-nine years and eight months. For the first four years afterwards, it was for a good part in great weaknesses, but in July 1829, now sixty-six years since, it came with me to an entire and full surrender of my heart. I gave myself fully to the Lord. Honors, pleasures, money, my physical powers, my mental powers, all were laid down at the feet of Jesus, and I became a great lover of the Word of God.”
Showing God faithful
Proceeding from these personally profound experiences, his life’s work would soon begin. George Mueller married Mary Groves in 1830, and the couple moved to Bristol, England, in 1832. Then, in 1834, he founded a Christian missionary organization named the Scriptural Knowledge Institution for Home and Abroad and soon dedicated his life to the care of orphans, an endeavor that was accomplished through the power of prayer.
Concerning his ministry, Mueller said he “longed to be used by God in getting the dear orphans trained up in the fear of God; but still, the first and primary object of the work was – and still is – that God might be magnified by the fact that the orphans under my care are provided with all they need only by prayer and faith, without any one being asked by me or my fellow laborers, whereby it may be seen that God is faithful still and hears prayer still.”
In the years ahead, George Mueller never asked people for help. He didn’t stand before others begging or brow-beating them for money and resources. Instead, he asked God. The dedicated prayer-warrior got down on bended knee and encountered the Creator, shared his burdens, and beseeched the all-sufficient Lord to be at work in his life.
Pastor Charles R. Parsons describes an interview with George Mueller toward the close of his life. During that exchange, Mueller said, “Hundreds of times we have commenced the day without a penny, but our Heavenly Father has sent supplies the moment they were actually required. There never was a time when we had no wholesome meal. During all these years, I have been enabled to trust in the living God alone. In answer to prayer, $7,500,000 have been sent to me. We have needed as much as $200,000 in one year, and it has all come when needed. No man can ever say I asked him for a penny. We have no committees, no collectors, no voting, and no endowment. All has come in answer to believing prayer.”
Imagine, raising 7.5 million dollars during the 1800s through the simple act of prayer. That’s the equivalent of more than $250,000,000 in today’s money – all raised through the quite but profound acts of faith and prayer.
When he first started this endeavor to care for orphans, Mueller had prayed for both workers and finances, which God readily provided. In response, George announced he would be accepting applications. However, he had forgotten to pray for children to fill the home. Guess what, nobody turned in an application. So, he quietly went before the Lord and asked, and the rest is history. The following day those applications began flowing. Before his work was done, George had opened five orphanages in the district of Ashley Downs. Those homes housed more than 2,000 children, and during the course of his lifetime of serving God, Mueller cared for more than 10,000 orphaned children.
Reflecting on his acts of prayer to do God’s work, Mueller said, “This plan may be despised by some, ridiculed by others, and considered insufficient by a third class of persons; but, under every trial and difficulty, we find faith and prayer to be our universal remedy; and, after having experienced for half a century their effect, we purpose, by God’s help, to continue waiting upon Him in order to show an ungodly world, and a doubting Church, that the Living God is still able and willing to answer prayer, and that it is a joy of His heart to listen to the supplications of His children.”
The stories surrounding his prayer life are both numerous and legendary. One time there was no food to feed the 300 orphans in his care and mealtime had come. So, Mueller had everyone sit down for the meal and pray. When finished with the blessing, there was a knock at the door from a baker who had been convicted to wake up early and prepare bread for the children. That was followed by a knock at the door from a milkman whose cart had broken down. He gave the supplies to the orphanage so he could unload his buggy and make the needed repairs. That’s right – the children had breakfast to eat, thanks to faith-filled prayers.
“Never since the orphan work has been in existence have I asked one single human being for any help for this work,” Mueller said. However, he did ask God, and his fervent prayers were answered. “From so many parts of the world, as has been stated, the donations have come in, and that very frequently at a time of the greatest need.”
This man of prayer didn’t just request finances to meet the needs; his petitions permeated his whole life. “Lest it should be thought that this my depending upon Him had only to do with the obtaining of money by prayer and faith, by the grace of God I desire my faith in God should extend toward every thing, the smallest of my temporal and spiritual concerns, and the smallest of the temporal and spiritual concerns of my family, toward the saints among whom I labor, the church at large, everything that has to do with the temporal and spiritual prosperity of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution.”
All of this was done by George Mueller to magnify God and show that the Lord is still faithful and hears our prayers. By his own journal accounts, more than 50,000 prayers lifted to heaven by Christ’s servant were answered. “I live in the spirit of prayer. I pray as I walk about, when I lie down, and when I rise up,” he said, “And the answers are always coming.”
“Whilst I firmly believe that He will give me, in His own time every shilling I need, yet I also know that He delights in being earnestly entreated, and that He takes pleasure in the continuance in prayer, and in the importuning Him, which so clearly is to be seen from the parable of the widow and the unjust judge (Luke 18:1-8).”
Calling others to prayer
George didn’t think he was unique; instead, he believed the power of prayer was available to any child of God who faithfully called upon the Lord. To that end, he said, “The joy which answers to prayer give cannot be described, and the impetus which they afford to the spiritual life is exceedingly great. The experience of this happiness I desire for all my Christian readers.”
In that same vain, Mueller said, “Every child of God is not called by the Lord to establish schools and orphan houses and to trust in the Lord for means for them. Yet, there is no reason why you may not experience, far more abundantly than we do now, His willingness to answer the prayers of His children.” On another occasion he echoed those thoughts, saying, “Yet all believers are called upon, in 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 to His will and in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
Mary died in 1870, and George married Suzannah Grace Sanger the following year. Then, in 1875 at the age of 70, the aging Christian leader embarked on a new endeavor, a worldwide missionary journey to preach and teach the Word of God, a quest that was also fueled on bended knee before the Lord. When all was said and done, Muller had traveled some 200,000 miles to 42 countries around the world trusting God to meet his every need. It’s said he preached to more than three million people during this period. Truly his life of prayer touched untold numbers around the world – both in his own time and well beyond.
This mighty prayer warrior of God died on March 10, 1898, at the age of 92, likely in the middle of prayer. During his lifetime, this committed Christian read through the Bible more than 200 times. As he said, “I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the word of God, and to meditation on it. … What is the food of the inner man? Not prayer, but the word of God; and … not the simple reading of the word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it, and applying it to our hearts.”
The inscription on his tombstone reads, in part: He trusted in God with whom “nothing shall be impossible”. And in his beloved Son Jesus Christ our Lord who said “I go unto my father, and whatever ye shall ask in my name that will I do that the father may be glorified in the son”. And in his inspired word which declares that “all things are possible to him that believeth”. And God fulfilled these declarations in the experience of his servant by enabling him to provide and care for about ten thousand orphans.
How to Ascertain the Will of God
(by George Mueller)
- I seek at the beginning to get my heart into such and state that it has no will of its own in regard to a given matter. Nine-tenths of the trouble with people is just here. Nine-tenths of the difficulties are overcome when our hearts are ready to do the Lord’s will, whatever it may be. When one is truly in this state, it is usually but a little way to the knowledge of what His will is.
- Having done this, I do not leave the result to feeling or simple impression. If so, I make myself liable to great delusions.
- I seek the will of the Spirit of God through, or in connection with, the Word of God. The Spirit and the Word must be combined. If I look to the Spirit alone without the Word, I lay myself open to great delusions also. If the Holy Ghost guides us at all, He will do it according to the Scriptures and never contrary to them.
- Next I take into account providential circumstances. These often plainly indicate God’s will in connection with His Word and Spirit.
- I ask God in prayer to reveal His will to me aright.
- Thus, through prayer to God, the study of the Word, and reflection, I come to a deliberate judgment according to the best of my ability and knowledge, and if my mind is thus at peace, and continues so after two or three more petitions, I proceed accordingly. In trivial matters, and in transactions involving most important issues, I have found this method always effective.
Five Conditions of Prevailing Prayer
(by George Mueller)
- Entire dependence upon the merits and mediation of the Lord Jesus Christ, as the only ground of any claim for blessing. (See John 14:13-14, 15:16, etc.)
- Separation from all known sin. If we regard iniquity in our hearts, the Lord will not hear us, for it would be sanctioning sin. (Psalm 66:18)
- Faith in God’s word of promise as confirmed by His oath. Not to believe Him is to make Him both a liar and a perjurer. (Hebrews 11:6, 6:13-20)
- Asking in accordance with His will. Our motives must be godly: we must not seek any gift of God to consume it upon our lusts (I John 5:14, James 4:3)
- Importunity in supplication. There must be waiting on God and waiting for God, as the husbandman has long patience to wait for the harvest. (James 5:7, Luke 18:1-8)
“How to Ascertain the Will of God” and “Five Conditions of Prevailing Prayer” were published in the book “Answers to Prayers from George Mueller’s Narratives” as compiled by A.E.C. Brooks. Other historical information collected for this piece came from that publication as well as “Deeper Experiences of Famous Christians” by J Gilchrist Lawson and “Footsteps of the Truth” edited by C. Russell Hurditch. Also, please note his name is spelled Müller in German, but the Americanized spelling is Mueller.
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