George Mueller (also spelled Müller) was born less than a decade before Charles Dickens in 1805; so he was certainly aware of all the horrors of society that the famed novelist describes in his works: workhouses, prisons, filth and disease, lack of concern for the poor and homeless - all the things about which Ebenezer Scrooge in his unredeemed state could care less. But Mueller did care, deeply; and in 1834 he decided to do something about it. He and his best friend, Henry Craik, founded the Scriptural Knowledge Institution (SKI) in Bristol, England, with one of their prime objectives being to establish Orphan Homes for the many homeless children in Great Britain.But Mueller and Craik had no money, nor did they intend to ask anyone for it: they believed that God would provide everything they needed - without patronage, without requests for contributions and without debts. All they had to do was pray, and God would provide. For 64 years, that was how George Mueller operated. In that course of time, he built The Orphanage campus at Ashley Down, where he cared for and educated over 18,000 children; educated over 100,000 more in other schools at the Orphanage's expense; distributed hundreds of thousands of Bibles and tens of millions of religious tracts; supported about 150 missionaries; travelled over 200,000 miles as a missionary himself; and shared the Gospel with over 3 million people around the world. And in all that time, he never asked for one penny from anyone, his children never missed a meal, and he never had a debt. That is the remarkable record of George Mueller.
Here are some of the ways he prayed. First, he never shared a need with anyone but God. Second, when he had a need, he opened his Bible, searched for a promise that fit that need, and then meditated on that scripture. Mueller believed in the power of thinking through scripture as much as he believed in the power of prayer. Third, he pleaded for that promise before God. And he didn't just pray for money: he prayed for individuals as well. Sometimes Mueller prayed for someone for as long as fifty years. He didn't stop praying for anyone or anything until he got his request. That's how convinced he was that God would answer his prayers. Through his prayers, Mueller obtained the modern-day equivalent of $150 M for his charities; he led tens if not hundreds of thousands to the Lord; and he lived to be 93 years old. That was the power of his faith and life.
I wish I had had the vision and faith of George Mueller when I began my business twelve years ago. At the time, I had no money; but, rather than going to God in prayer as he did, I thought I could rely on credit cards to float my business until it took off. I ended up in serious debt, which I am just now finishing paying off. That is the difference between "attempting something so great for God that it is doomed to failure unless God is in it," as John Haggai has said; and doing something through our own strength and understanding. George Mueller trusted God; I didn't. Mueller did things the easy way; I did them the hard way. Going to God in prayer is the easy way to get things done, but they have to be His things, not ours: they have to be the things He is involved in.
Once, when there was no food to give the children and it was almost lunch time, one of Mueller's assistants came to him, worried. Mueller said, "It's not twelve o'clock yet." Just then, a truck pulled up to the orphanage loaded with food from an unsolicited donor. Often, Mueller had no idea where their next meal was coming from: he just trusted God's promises. Another time, when Mueller was onboard a ship that was lost in fog, he comforted the anxious captain by saying, "My eye is not on the density of the fog, but on the living God, who controls every circumstance of my life." They came out of the fog, and that captain later gave his life to Christ.
For George Mueller, prayer wasn't just "quiet time" with God in the morning, although that was important: it was a way of life. He said, "I live in the spirit of prayer. I pray as I walk about, when I lie down and when I rise up. And the answers are always coming. Thousands and tens of thousands of times have my prayers been answered. When once I am persuaded that a thing is right and for the glory of God, I go on praying for it until the answer comes. George Mueller never gives up!"
Part of Mueller's success was due to his attitude. Someone once asked him the secret of his service, and he said, "There was a day when I died, utterly died: died to George Mueller, his opinions, preferences, tastes and will; died to the world, its approval or censure; died to the approval or blame even of my brethren and friends. And since then, I have studied only to show myself 'approved unto God.'" Being dead to self, the world, approval and blame freed Mueller of the cares of life that hold so many of us back, freed him to be alive only to Christ, freed him to serve.
The promise George Mueller clung to most throughout his life, and I'm guessing the one he prayed most often, was "Open wide your mouth and I will fill it." (Psalm 81:10b). He had no "Plan B" for his life. If his prayers had failed, his orphanages would have failed. Mueller was totally dependent on God. That was how he wanted it. He wanted people to see that God was faithful and could be trusted. He once said, "I have joyfully dedicated my whole life to the object of exemplifying how much may be accomplished by prayer and faith." His life certainly exemplified that.
Here is how George Mueller described his prayer time:
"I seek at the beginning to get my heart into such a state that it has no will of its own in regard to a given matter. 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 impressions. 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.
"Next I take into account providential circumstances. These 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 transactions involving most important issues, I have found this method always effective."