This week, I finished a biography on George Müller, the Christian evangelist who went from being a gambler, liar and thief to a man of faith who provided care and education for over 10,000 orphans over nearly 60 years in Bristol, UK during the 19th century.
The life of George Müller is remarkable on many accounts, but none so much as the way he exercised his faith in God. Though he was entrusted with the care of hundreds, sometimes over a thousand orphans at any given time, he never once asked anyone except God to provide financially for them. When there was need, even to the point of having no food to put on the table, Müller and his wife Mary would simply retire to their room and pray, and God would answer, in many cases immediately.
Many famous stories have been documented about Müller’s faith in prayer. At one point, with over five hundred orphans to feed breakfast and not a scrap of food to be found, Müller gathered the orphans around the empty dining hall tables and they prayed together for God to provide them with a meal. Within minutes, a knock came at the door. It was a local baker who said in the middle of the night, he felt an overwhelming urge to get up and bake bread to take to the orphanage the next morning. While the children were eating the freshly baked bread, another knock came at the door. The milk delivery driver said his vehicle had broken a wheel right outside the orphanage. In order to fix it, he would need to unload all of the milk and he didn’t want it to go to waste, so if the orphanage could use it, they could have it for free.
Müller kept detailed records, not only accounting for every penny of his finances (which he would only use as the donor specified it should be used) but also for every prayer request he made of God and the date and way it was answered. Müller not only saw how faithfully God answered prayer, but he recorded everything so that it could be used as an encouragement to others about how God could be faithful to them! Because amazingly enough, serving the orphans was not George Müller’s primary calling; his calling was teaching others that God was absolutely faithful.
It was estimated that over 1.5 million pounds passed through the hands of Müller as he served the orphans. He never kept a penny for himself, and died with 160 pounds in his estate, most of which was the value of his furniture. Nevertheless, he was able to travel the world on multiple occasions preaching the good news of the gospel and sharing about his faithful God who provided every need for the orphans at just the right time. He never lacked for God’s work to do and was preaching over 300 times per year while running the orphanages and supporting missions work into his late 80’s.
As I reflect on serving in ministry over the past two years, I also see how faithfully God has provided for me and my family. Though I certainly never prayed like George Müller prayed, nor believed in God’s provision like he did, God has still been completely faithful, even generous in providing for us. And when I look at where my faith is today compared to where it was two years ago, it has changed. Though perhaps it isn’t so much that my faith has grown, but that my understanding about God has grown. Müller discovered and practiced a great truth about God; not only is He capable of providing for all of our needs, He loves to do it when we ask. Because as we rely on God for all of our needs, we bear witness to His power and faithfulness to those around us.
But I am even more inspired that God didn’t just provide for the little things of the Müller’s daily life. He provided in abundance for the sake of the orphans. George Müller dreamed big, prayed big, and received big from the Lord. In a sense, his whole life was a challenge to God to show how powerful He is. And God not only came through every time, but He surpassed all expectations George Müller ever had.
Ephesians 3 concludes with this reminder that God’s power is not limited even to the capacity of what we can imagine:
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
George Müller inspires us to pray big prayers and expect big answers from God. As Hudson Taylor, missionary and friend of George Müller once said: “God’s work, done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.” Perhaps Taylor was thinking of his friend’s example when he said these words.