Matthew 7:7 – “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
John 14:13 – And I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.
14 – You may ask Me for anything in My name, and I will do it.
Matthew 6:25 – “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.
26 – Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
On the last day of my vacation this summer Sue and I drove up to Wilmington, North Carolina. They have a new waterfront shopping area there and the plan was for the Sue and the girls to enjoy all those quaint shops…while I went across the river to tour the USS North Carolina. And I have to say, I think I got the better part of that deal! I mean, for nearly three hours I toured what was lovingly referred to during WWII as “the showboat.” I started at the top—and worked my way down. I visited the CIC and both captain’s cabins. I saw the bridge and wanted to sit in the captain’s chair but this one lady would just not give up her “throne.” So I left and explored the super-structure. Then I went down and explored the main deck. I inspected one of the ship’s float planes and crawled up inside one of it’s 16-inch gun turrets. I even sat in the gunners seat of one of their anti-aircraft guns. They had it rigged so you could rotate it from side to side and also change the gun’s elevation—cool! Next I went below decks where I saw crew quarters, officers’ quarters, the galley, the sick bay, the barber shop, the ship’s store, the post office…I saw where the chaplain conducted services and where the crew watched movies. I visited the engineering deck. There were so many turns I got lost a couple times but I had a great time! The only thing that could have made my tour better is if I had Don Mayberry along with me because he served on a battleship known as the USS Iowa during the first Gulf War.
But I have to say that of all the things I saw that morning, the thing that impressed me most about my time on the showboat was her incredible POWER. I mean, she is huge—729 feet long, displacing over 37,000 tons. Her engines produce 121,000 horsepower—and enough electricity to power a small city and that’s basically what she is…because during the war she was the floating home to 2339 officers and enlisted men. The North Carolina has 9 sixteen inch guns capable of firing shells the equivalent in weight to a VW beetle. Her hull was outfitted with 16 inches of armor plate. During the war her crew shot down 14 enemy planes, destroyed an enemy troop ship and bombarded the island of Iwo Jima for three days before our marines landed. She took a torpedo while protecting the carrier’s WASP and HORNET but kept right on fighting. I could go on and on because the USS North Carolina was an incredibly POWERFUL ship!
I bring this all up because today we are studying the life of an incredibly powerful man named George Muller—through whom amazing—God-sized things were done every day of his life. Please hear me on this: Muller was the conduit for a power that makes the North Carolina look like a child’s bathtub toy. His life is proof of James 5:16 where it says, “The prayer of a righteous man is POWERFUL and effective.” I want us to study the life of this Christ-follower so that we can learn from his example. By the way, my main sources are two books: Janet and Geoff Benge’s George Muller: The Guardian of Bristol’s Orphans and Basil Miller’s, George Muller: man of Faith and Miracles.
George Mueller was born on September 27, 1805 in Kroppenstaedt, Prussia. His father, Johann, was a tax collector for the Prussian government and he cared little about the things of God. Johann’s main desire was for wealth and the comfort it can bring. He apparently passed his love of money and the pleasures of this world down to his son. I say this because in my reading I learned that young George acted like an unprincipled hedonist who loved to drink and gamble and party his life away. On top of that to finance this lifestyle he became a skilled liar and thief. Muller confesses, “Before I was ten years old I repeatedly took the government money that was intrusted to my father…till one day…he detected my theft, by depositing a counted sum in the room where I was, and leaving me to myself for awhile. I took some of the money and hid it under my foot in my shoe.” George was caught and punished but instead of repentance, his response was to figure out how he could continue to steal more cleverly so that he would NOT get caught the next time. To give you an idea of how depraved he was, when he was 14 and his mother lay on her deathbed, Muller was out gambling and drinking with friends. When she died, he took no notice.
In an attempt to correct his son’s behavior George’s father sent him off to a prep school in Halberstadt. His thought was that his son should study to become a Lutheran minister. Muller writes, “This was not that I might serve God but rather that I might have a comfortable income.” You see, licensed pastors in Prussia were wealthy. They received very good salaries. It was a respectable upper-class profession. Well, while George was in Halberstadt, this “ministerial student” continued to steal so as to finance his lifestyle. He would go to businesses saying he was representing his dad….and collect tax money that then went into his pockets. Once he sold his textbooks and claimed they had been stolen. Another time in November of 1821 he checked into an expensive hotel and ran up a large tab, then left without paying. He moved on to another hotel and did the same thing. But, while climbing out of the window of his room he was caught and thrown into jail. His father let him stay there a few weeks before bailing him out and paying his hotel bills. The next year, with prep school behind him, George’s father enrolled him in the University of Halle and this time he hired a tutor to make sure he focused on his studies.
But George ditched the tutor and without his father’s knowledge transferred to a smaller school in a town called Nordhausen and while there he befriended a fellow student named Beta. Then in an attempt to meet girls Beta invited George to a prayer meeting that was held in the home of a Christ-follower named Wagner. Muller went and the meeting had a profound impact on him and I’m not talking about the girls he met there. No—George was astounded at the way the people at this meeting worshiped. They sang hymns and studied the Bible with a depth of sincerity he had never seen in the state church of Prussia. And the thing that MOST impressed him was the way Wagner prayed. Muller said that he talked to God as if He were right there in the room with them. He went back to the cottage meeting the next night and the next and the next. He later wrote, “All my former pleasures are nothing in comparison to the joy of those meetings.” Soon George was on his knees in his dorm room, talking to God as if He were in the room asking Him to forgive him of his sins. As part of that prayer, he gave his heart and life to Jesus and from then on he was literally a changed man. He immediately stopped drinking, stealing, lying, and gambling. He experienced the new birth that comes with that decision and is a great example of Paul’s words in 2nd Corinthians 5:17, “If any one is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things have passed away. Behold all things have become new.”
Muller wrote his dad to tell him about his decision to follow Jesus and about the joy he now experienced, but his father’s reply was just an angry letter in which he told George to, “…stop all that nonsense and focus on becoming an accepted minister…a clergyman with a good living who will be able to support your father in his old age.” That letter led George to make a pivotal decision. He believed in the depth of his heart that God had called him to become a missionary….so he decided he would no longer rely on his father for financial support. No…from then on he would trust the Lord to provide for his needs. So he got on his knees and asked God to send him the money for his college costs. He told God exactly how much he needed. An hour later there was a knock at the door and when he opened it there stood Dr. Tholuck, the school’s new professor of divinity. Standing next to him was a someone George did not know. Dr. Tholuck introduced him to his companion, a Dr. Hodge from Princeton University in America. They had come to visit George because Dr. Hodge and three of his colleagues wanted to study at the university but none of them spoke German. They were offering George a job as their translator and guide. Each would pay the full rate. That income more than covered George’s tuition costs. On top of that, before he left, Dr. Tholluck asked if George would be interested in living at an orphanage across the street. They had a room set aside for students like himself and it was free. So, as a result of one prayer, George received money to continue his studies and free room and board to boot. He immediately returned to his knees to thank God. But that first prayer would be a life-changer for George Muller. It would become a funnel for incredible POWER.
Well, as I said, earlier, George wanted to become a missionary and he felt a special burden to go to the Jewish people. Dr. Tholuck told him of a program in London—a six-month school designed to train Christians to become missionaries to the Jews. George applied and was accepted but the only problem was that as a Prussian citizen he was required to serve three years in the army. It looked as if his admission to the London missionary school was off. Then, remembering his recent experience with prayer, George asked for God’s help. In response, George became very sick—so sick that when he was examined for entrance to the Prussian army, he was declared physically unfit for service. Shortly after that he recovered, got his passport, and sailed for London. Even through this sickness, God was leading George into a life of trust. He was learning that in ALL THINGS God works for our good.
And, speaking of all things, a few months after he arrived in London, the illness returned and he went to a town by the sea named Teignmouth, to recover. But, while he was convalescing there he met a Scotsman named Henry Craik. Like George, Henry had become a Christian while in college and Henry challenged George to become more serious about reading the Bible which he did. He read it cover to cover and he never stopped. When he finished Revelation he would start over in Genesis. It is estimated that George Muller read the Bible cover to cover more than 400 times in his lifetime. And—the more George read the Bible—the more he wanted to tell people about God’s great love. He couldn’t wait for his training to end—so he began distributing Gospel tracts to Jews….and he also started a special Sunday School class for Jewish boys. Over fifty came and he began to see that he didn’t need to GO somewhere to be a missionary because there was a mission field for him right there in London. So he left his missionary school and like the Apostle Paul he continued his work with the Jews in the area while preaching in local churches whenever given the opportunity.
As part of this he preached at a little church called the Ebenezer Chapel and that congregation invited him to become their permanent pastor with a salary of $275 dollars a year. He accepted and a few months later met a girl named Mary Groves. Her brother was a missionary and so like George she had a heart for missions. Well, the two fell in love and a few months later they were married. Shortly after that Muller told his new wife that he felt it was wrong for him to accept a salary from Ebeneezer Chapel—that instead they should just rely on the Lord to provide for their needs. Part of the motivation for this was the pew rental system that most churches of that day used. Members would literally rent their seats in the church and the funds from these rentals paid his salary. Well, Muller felt these rentals kept poor people from coming to church. So he cancelled pew rental at Ebeneezer church and instead nailed a wood box on the back wall. Then he invited people to give as they felt led by putting their offerings in that box. At the end of the year, Muller tallied up what they had received—he kept meticulous records by the way—and it turns out that they had received $660….more than double the salary he had been promised! Muller once wrote, “I am able to say to myself…the Lord is not limited. He can supply. And thus this way of living, far from leading to anxiety, as regards possible future want, is rather the means of keeping from it. This way of living has often been the means of reviving the work of grace in my heart….and a fresh answer to prayer obtained in this way has been the means of quickening my soul and filling me with much joy.”
Eventually Muller’s friend Henry Craik, invited him to come to Bristol…and after praying for confirmation, he accepted and Muller and Craig co-pastored two churches there. They agreed to adopt Muller’s policy of no pew rentals—and to continue to rely on God for a salary. Once again God bountifully supplied for all their needs. Muller had learned a vital lesson—that God is better at meeting our needs than we are. Well, not too long after they arrived in Bristol an epidemic of Cholera hit the area and thousands died. During those difficult weeks both Muller and Craik risked their own lives visiting the sick and dying. That summer Muller wrote, “I have never realized so much the nearness of death. Just now, ten in the evening, the funeral bell is ringing and has been ringing the greater part of the evening. It rings almost all day. Into Thine hands, O Lord, I commend myself.” In the months after the cholera epidemic passed, George began to notice children living on the streets—children who had become orphaned by parents who died of the disease. In response Muller started what he called “the breakfast club.” He would invite orphans to his home for breakfast and they came. Every day he and Mary fed 30-40 children. They prayed for God’s help and in response every morning the food that was needed was miraculously provided. Well, Muller saw that his breakfast club could not meet the spiritual needs of the hundreds of orphans so he founded what he called, “The Scriptural Knowledge Institution for Home and Abroad.” The SKIFHA would have three purposes:
- Provide Sunday Schools where these orphan children would be taught the Bible as well as day schools for children and adults,
- Provide copies of the Bible for all who needed them, and
- Collect money to be sent to help missionaries with their work.
This new institution would be unlike others in that day in that it would rely solely on God for all resources. The only way it would solicit funds would be through prayer. And, once again God provided. Within six months the Institution was providing education for 120 children in SS and 240 children and adults in day school. In that initial half-year, a thousand Bibles were purchased and given away and $500 was sent overseas to support missionaries. Through the institute, Muller would help missionaries like Hudson Taylor. In fact, through the years he provided for most of Taylor’s income. George accounted for every cent in his meticulous records. By the time of his death the institute disbursed over $2.7 million dollars and distributed over 1.7 million Bibles. By the way, the Institute is still functioning in the same “rely on God” way to this very day.
Well as Muller worked with these orphans he began to learn about England’s Poorhouse system. The government built these poorhouses to help people—but they wanted them to be as unattractive as possible to discourage people from living there. So they were intentionally designed as horrible places. Husbands, wives and children were all separated and made to do the most menial work. For example, for 12-14 hours a day they were forced to crush horse and cow bones by hand, break rocks apart, and hand-grind corn. After a day’s work they flopped exhausted onto their lice- and flea-infested bunks knowing they would have to do it all again the next day. In return for their labor they got two meals a day which were required to be eaten in silence. Children seven years old and up were made to work and were not allowed to see their parents even if they were in the same poorhouse. The death rate in the poorhouses was high. Disease flourished in the horrid living conditions and such a sense of hopelessness hung in the air that many people who lived there committed suicide. All this convinced Muller that he had to do something and that SOMETHING is what he would become known for all around the world.
Muller came to see that the good work God had prepared in advance for him to do was to start orphanages to provide for the physical and spiritual needs of orphan children. Unlike the poorhouses his orphanages would be clean and would provide good clothing and nutritious food. The children would be taught the Bible and would learn a trade. In short, his orphanages would be happy places. So, they began by renting a town home on Wilson Street and as was his practice George prayed for every specific need and God bountifully provided….money for the rent, clothing, furniture, plates, knives, forks, spoons, bedding, food, coal for the furnace…God even sent gifted Christian workers to care for the children. George had already learned that no need is too small or too large to bring to God. As proof of this prayer principle, he kept a careful diary every day of his life where he recorded the specific prayer request in one column and then how God answered that prayer in another.
Well, on the morning of February 3, 1836 George hurried to the orphanage on Wilson Street…to wait for the children to arrive but by 5PM not a single orphan had come. When he returned home dejected and depressed his wife asked him if he had remembered to pray for CHILDREN to fill the orphanage and he admitted he had prayed for everything but that….so right then and there that couple got on their knees and asked God to sent them. The next morning the orphans began to arrive. By the end of the month they housed 26 girls…and had a waiting list of 42. As the need for orphanages grew Muller rented more homes. Eventually they had five such orphanages all on Wilson street…and Muller’s diary verified that every need was provided as a response to prayer. Here are some pictures of Muller’s kids. The only problem was that other residents on Wilson street complained about the noise and so Muller began to feel led to purchase land and build orphanages so he prayed to that end. Tens of thousands of dollars poured in and soon the first orphanage was built in Bristol. It was called Ashley Down and it was designed to hold 300 children. It was a grand day indeed when the children marched single file from their rented homes on Wilson Street to the brand new orphanage. I wish I could have seen that parade!
Eventually, and remember every need provided by prayer, Muller would build five such orphanages. He would use them to care for the needs of 10,024 children during his long life.
People would say it was from God’s hands to Muller’s hand to the orphans’ mouths. In fact, Muller was well-known for providing for the children—so well that he was accused of raising the poor above their “natural station” in life. But that didn’t even slow him down. Relying on God’s limitless power, he also established 117 schools which offered Christian education to over 120,000 children, many of them orphans. And remember, He prayed for every need—big and small. He never solicited donations from anyone but God Himself. Here’s an example of the way God provided over the years.
One morning in 1862 Muller’s assistant, Jim Wright came to him and said, “I had to bother you but the children are all ready for breakfast and there is not a thing in the house to eat. What shall I tell them?” George said, “I’ll take care of it. Just give me a minute and then he told Mr. Wright’s little daughter, Abigail to come with him. He said, “Abigail come and see what God will do.” They went into the dining room where 300 children stood in neat rows behind their chairs. Set on the table in front of each child was a plate, a mug, a knife, fork, and spoon. But there was no food whatsoever to be seen. Abigail asked him, “Where is the food?” and Muller replied, “God will supply.” Then he turned to the children and said, “There’s not much time. I don’t want any of you to be late for school so let’s pray.” As the kids bowed their heads Muller prayed, “Dear God, we thank You for what You are going to give us to eat. Amen.” He asked the kids to be seated and no sooner had they done so than there was a knock on the door. Muller opened it and there was a baker standing there who said, “Mr. Muller, I couldn’t sleep last night. I kept thinking that somehow you would need bread this morning and that I was supposed to get up and bake it for you. So I got up at two o’clock and made three batches for you. I hope you can use it.” As the kids enjoyed the fresh baked bread there was a second knock at the door. This time it was the milkman who said, “I’m in need of a little help. The wheel on my cart has broken right outside your establishment. I will have to lighten my load before I can fix it. There are ten full cans fo milk on it. Could you use them? It’s free of charge of course. I’ll never fix the cart with all that weight on it.’ There was enough milk for every child in the home and enough left over for their afternoon tea. From then on it is said that little Abigail Wright always finished her prayer requests by saying, “…like you do for George Muller, Amen.”
Muller testifies that during his life time 50,000 prayers like this were answered by God and this helped him to see that prayer is absolutely essential for every Christ-follower. In fact, when once he became too busy to pray he corrected that by saying. “Four hours of work after an hour of prayer will accomplish more than five hours of work without prayer.” Once a boiler in one of the orphanages broke and it was the height of winter. Muller prayed for more temperate weather until the boiler could be fixed and in response the wind changed. Instead of a cold north wind, God sent a warm southerly breeze until the boiler was repaired. In 1875 Muller saw that his staff could handle the orphanages and he felt led to accept the many invitations to preach that he had received. For the next 17 years he traveled across the globe covering over 200,000 miles. God finally used him as a “foreign missionary,” sending him to preach in 42 nations to a total of 3 million people. Remember, this is way before airplanes and every penny of the cost of these trips was provided as a result of prayer—but that’s not all God provided. While crossing the Atlantic on the SS. Sardinian in August of 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 said that he was slowing the ship down for safety and Muller’s appointment would have to be missed.
Muller 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 Muller prayed, they went on the bridge to find that the fog had suddenly lifted. The captain became a Christ-follower shortly afterwards. From then on he was called, “Holy Joe.”
Muller returned home to England in 1892 and on March 10, 1898 he died at the ripe old age of 93. He was a widower by then and for his last seven years he had lived in a small room in one of his orphanages. He was very healthy until his last day. He apparently walked into his room and just died. People said it was like Enoch, who walked with God into eternity. After his death The Daily Telegraph ran his obituary and it said, “George Muller has robbed the cruel streets of thousands of victims, the jails of thousands of felons, and the poorhouses of thousands of helpless waifs.” How had he done this? Another paper, The Liverpool Mercury wrote, “How was this wonder accomplished. Mr. Muller has told the world that I was the result of ‘prayer.’
The rationalism of the day will sneer at this declaration; but the facts remain.” By the time he died over a half million English pounds had passed through his hands but he left only 160 in his estate and most of that was the value of a few pieces of furniture.
Now how could Muller pray so powerfully—so effectively?
(1) First, Muller learned to PRAY right.
He got to know God by talking to Him as if He were in the room all the time—which of course He is…and also by reading His book over and over again…and through that intimate, personal relationship he learned to ask for things He knew were in accordance with God’s will. He read texts like 1st John 5:14 where it says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” So, for example, Muller knew that as Psalm 68:5 says, God promises to be, “A father to the fatherless,” which told him God would answer his prayers and take care of those children…that He would, “…supply all their needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Phillipians 4:19) Muller knew that as the Psalmist says, “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” (Psalm 37:25) He learned the secret of coming to God asking for the RIGHT things and he practiced this for 73 years and never once found the throne vacant or the supplies exhausted. Let me ask…do you know God well enough to pray according to His will? I mean, do you pray RIGHT…with the RIGHT attitude…for the RIGHT things?
But that’s not the only secret of Muller’s prayer power.
(2) He also prayed in the right NAME.
You see, Muller’s powerful prayer life began the day he came into a personal relationship with Jesus. This same relationship is the channel for our own powerful, effective prayer. You see, our sin separates us from God but through faith in Jesus’ atoning death we can come to Him. Let me put it this way…because of our sin we are all in essence orphans—but when we put our faith in Jesus, God adopts us as His children. This is why Jesus said we should call God, “Abba” or “Daddy.” Communion is a celebration of this wonderful fact. As we share it together this morning, let me invite all Christians present to partake with us…because even if you are not a member of this church…If you are a Christian…if you are His, this is Yours.
THE ORDINANCE OF COMMUNION
You know, we have studied a lot of amazing people this summer. These seven individuals: Booth, Wilberforce, Bonhoeffer, Carver, Graham, ten Boom and Muller they have indeed been a GREAT crowd of witnesses! And this morning as we stand and sing you may want to bow your head and pray asking God to help you follow their example in some way. You might want to ask God to help you be a faithful dispenser of His grace like Carver or share your faith like Graham or embrace the courage of Bonhoeffer and ten Boom…you may want to commit to pray like Muller…or stand up for the right like Wilberforce or help the poor like Booth. And, if you feel led to pray like this, come forward and I or one of the other pastors will pray with you.
You may be hear and want to profess your faith in Christ or ask to join this church. If so, come as we stand and sing.
Let the PEACE OF CHRIST rule in your hearts
since as members of one body you were called to peace.
Let the WORD OF CHRIST dwell in you richly
and whatever you do…in word or in deed
Do it all in the NAME OF CHRIST giving thanks to God the Father