“One of the profound tragedies of modern Christianity is that so many believers know almost nothing about the saints of God in other denominations and communions or in ages other than their own.”
Why should we concern ourselves with how other people pray? What can the faithful of other generations and other denominations teach us? W. Bingham Hunter states that it is “arrogant” to think that the Holy Spirit can teach us nothing through the counsel and experience of others, especially others who are considered the church’s “heroes of faith” [Hunter, 163].
Hunter names thirty-four heroes but chooses to focus on one: George Muller. What makes Muller so special? Muller was a 19th Century Evangelist and Director of the Ashley Down Orphanage where he cared for 10,024 orphans in his lifetime. He also established 117 schools which offered Christian education to over 120,000 children, many of them being orphans.
The commitment to caring for orphans began in 1836 with the use of his own rented home. Muller and his wife configured their home to care for thirty girls. Soon after they started, growth began with more homes opening to accommodate more children.
Through all the growth, “Müller never made requests for financial support, nor did he go into debt, even though the five homes cost over £100,000 to build. Many times, he received unsolicited food donations only hours before they were needed to feed the children, further strengthening his faith in God. For example, on one well-documented occasion, they prayed for breakfast when all the children were sitting at the table, even though there was nothing to eat in the house. As they finished praying, the baker knocked on the door with sufficient fresh bread to feed everyone, and the milkman gave them plenty of fresh milk because his cart broke down in front of the orphanage.”*
He never asked any person (only God) for anything. Muller regarded his life as a demonstration of what God might do through the prayers of the ordinary Christian. Muller regarded faith as a gift from God rather than something he could generate on his own. Time after time, Muller found himself asking God for help and thinking that help would arrive in accordance with His will.
This is in line with 1 John 5 and the words “This is the assurance we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him” [verses 14-15].
Muller did not give thanks in advance for prayers not yet granted. Hunter believes that thanking God in advance is akin to psychological leverage which demands that God deliver. Muller had a habit of saying after prayer “God will surely send help.” That was all.
How many Christians today would have such great faith? How many Christians today would put themselves and others at risk? Hunter says “how often are we unwilling to follow God’s will into situations which are neither safe, comfortable, familiar, regulated, scheduled nor routine?”
What you lose if you turn down these opportunities is you lose your chance to increase your faith. When the Holy Spirit calls out that this is what you should do, do it; it may be risky business but it is business that is worth doing. Dire conditions like poverty, persecution, suffering and imprisonment seem to accelerate the growth of faith because we are so dependent on God to get us out of those circumstances but we need to realize that God also acts in the comfort of our everyday lives. Taking a risk in those ordinary times is needed because growing our faith takes time and the time that God uses the most is the ordinary times of every day.
“Müller’s faith in God strengthened day by day and he spent hours in daily prayer and Bible reading. Indeed, it was his practice in later years, to read through the entire Bible four times a year….After his life, his work was continued by The George Müller Foundation, which was renamed The George Müller Charitable Trust on 1 March 2009. The Trust maintains the key principle of seeking money through prayer alone – it actively shuns fund-raising activities.”*
He prayed, he knew his Bible and God worked through him—his prayers and his actions.
*Wikipedia “George Muller”