George Müller: a life of faith and prayer
I first heard of George Müller when Kuya Lito (our youth pastor) spoke about him as an illustration one Saturday afternoon. The subject was prayer. So here was this man, George Müller, preacher from Bristol, who housed and fed a thousand homeless children in 19th century England, who lived by prayer and faith alone, and who advertised his needs to no man but to God Himself. His prayers were answered in the most extraordinary situations. His life was a testimony to the Lord's faithfulness and greatness.
Prayer—rather, prayerlessness—is something I struggle with daily. I wanted to be challenged and encouraged. I figured I should read about the life of someone who has matured and emerged victorious in this crucial Christian discipline. Thankfully, a kind friend from church, Ate Milaine Espino, offered to lend me a copy of one her books, George Müller: Delighted in God written by Roger Steer.
Knowing Jesus personally
George Müller was born in Kroppenstaedt, a village in Prussia, in 1805. At a very young age, he was a liar, a thief, and a gambler. His father wanted him to have religious education, so he could very well enjoy a high-ranking position in the state church. While in the University of Halle, he met Beta, a fellow student, who invited him to a prayer meeting, which made a "deep impression" upon him. As they went home, he 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."
Since then, he had been returning to those meetings. Eventually he came to a personal knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Müller wrote,
It pleased God to teach me something of the meaning of that precious truth: 'God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting love.' I understood something of the reason why the Lord Jesus died on the cross, and suffered such agonies in the Garden of Gesthemane: even that thus, bearing the punishment due to us, we might not have to bear it ourselves. And, therefore, apprehending in some measure the love of Jesus for my soul, I was constrained to love Him in return.
The author, Roger Steer described it as "the turning point of his (Müller's) life; and that night he lay peaceful and happy in bed."
Trusting in God alone
Müller wanted to be a missionary. His father, who thought that having financial stability was the most important consideration in life, was disappointed. He wrote,
I gave myself fully to the Lord. Honour, pleasure, money, my physical powers, my mental powers, all was laid down at the feet of Jesus, and I became a great lover of the Word of God. I found my all in God . . .
But knowing that it was God's will for him, he went to England in 1820 to minister to the Jews there. Eventually he became a minister in Teignmouth. It was during his ministry in Ebenezer Chapel in Devon that he married Mary Groves. It was also around this time when he refused receiving salary. Müller and his wife resolved that "they won't be asking any man for help but will go directly to God."
People thought he was crazy. But Müller reasoned out that:
This has been a means of letting us see the tender love and care of our God over His children, even in the most minute of things, in a way in which we never experimentally knew them before; and it has, in particular, made the Lord known to us more fully than we knew Him before as a prayer hearing God.
Müller moved to Bristol in 1832 and began working at the Bethesda Chapel. He continued preaching there until his death.
In 1834 he founded the Scriptural Knowledge Institution for Home and Abroad. This was meant to help out Christian schools and missionaries. Bible tracts were distributed. Schools were run, all rooted upon a firm Scriptural foundation. According to Müller, "The chief and special end of the Institution will be to seek, with God's blessing, to bring them to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, by instructing them in the Scriptures."
But George Müller, of course, is more popularly known for his work with the English orphans. He and his wife decided that they would build an orphanage to cater to the homeless children in the country. The idea was radical then. The state had no establishments for these purposes. There were preexisting privately-run orphanages, but they hardly solved anything because they were very selective in their choice of the orphans.
But Müller was determined to "demonstrate to the world that there is reality in the things of God." Thirty girls were accommodated in their own home at 6 Wilson Street, Bristol. Soon after, three more homes were added, and then it grew to five. More and more children, both girls and boys, were housed and fed and taught Scripture. In all this, Müller never asked anyone for a single penny.
The reason why I have refrained altogether from soliciting anyone for help is, that the hand of God evidently might be seen in the matter, that thus my fellow-believers might be encouraged more and more to trust Him, and that those who know not the Lord may have a fresh proof that, indeed, it is not a vain thing to pray to God.
My favorite parts of the book are those snippets of journal entries where Müller recorded every single donation he received. A bag of sugar, sets of teaspoon, dozens of eggs, a thousand pounds from an anonymous donor, and so much more—all written with gratefulness and praise.
His God works wonders
In his book, Steer also records many interesting stories about George Müller. This was one of my favorites.
Once, whilst crossing the Atlantic on the SS Sardinian in August 1877, his ship ran into thick fog. He explained to the captain that he needed to be in Quebec by the following afternoon, but Captain Joseph E Dutton (later known as "Holy Joe") said that he was slowing the ship down for safety and Müller's appointment would have to be missed. Müller asked to use the chartroom to pray for the lifting of the fog. The captain followed him down, claiming it would be a waste of time. After Müller prayed, the captain started to pray, but Müller stopped him; partly because of the captain's unbelief, but mainly because he believed the prayer had already been answered. When the two men went back to the bridge, they found the fog had lifted. The captain became a Christian shortly afterwards.George Müller had a strong faith in and a lofty view of God. But was it a special kind of faith, something vastly different from the faith given by God to all who call upon him? Müller answers thus,
It is true that that faith, which I am enabled to exercise, is altogether God's own gift; it is true that He alone supports it, and that He alone can increase it; it is true that, moment by moment, I depend upon Him for it, and that, if I were only a moment left to myself, my faith would utterly fail; but it is not true that my faith is that gift of faith which is spoken of in 1 Corinthians 12:9 . . . it is the self-same faith which is found in every believer, and the growth of which I am sensible of to myself.Delight
Müller delighted in the God he worshiped, even to the end of his days. He was strengthened day by day by hours of daily prayer and Bible reading. He came to God during times of plenty and of need. He knew the Lord so well that he believed, in his heart of hearts, that God would never disappoint him. He went home with the Lord when he was 93 years old. And what a powerful testimony his life has been.