"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. " – An Hour With George Müller, The Man of Faith to Whom God Gave Millions, by Charles R. Parsons
Over a hundred years after he spoke those words, the life of this man of prayer continues to strengthen the faithful and testify to all men the reality of the things of God. Born on September 27, 1805, George Müller showed the world that God answers prayer.
The well known plight of children, and especially orphans, in nineteenth century England was widely described as a national disgrace at the time George Müller lived. In 1848, Lord Ashley referred to more than thirty thousand “naked, filthy, roaming lawless and deserted children, in and around the metropolis.” Throughout the long reign of Queen Victoria, one-third of her subjects was under the age of fifteen. With a population that more than doubled in the 19th century, housing in the cities of England was scarce and expensive, and wages were kept down to a barely subsistence level.
Kellow Chesney described the situation as follows: "Hideous slums, some of them acres wide, some no more than crannies of obscure misery, make up a substantial part of the metropolis... In big, once handsome houses, thirty or more people of all ages may inhabit a single room."
The situation was exacerbated by the draconian New Poor Law of 1834, which relegated the needy to prison-like institutions called workhouses, splitting up families and subjecting them to repugnant living conditions and hard labor. The Victorian era became notorious for the forced employment of children as young as four years old, often working sixteen hour days in factories and mines, where they generally died before the age of twenty-five. In 1834, in all of England there were accommodations for only 3,600 orphans. Twice that number of children under the age of eight were in prison, and only about twenty percent of the children in London had any schooling.
With only two shillings (less than fifty cents) in his pocket, but believing great enough to move mountains, George Müller set out to change things. As Roger Steer wrote in his biography, George Müller, Delighted in God:
“ Müller's concern for the plight of orphans in nineteenth century England began rather more than a year before Dickens popularized the situation in Oliver twist. There can be no doubt either about the tragic proportions of the problem or that Müller's anxiety was genuine. When he first arrived in Bristol he was deeply moved by the common sight of children begging in the streets; and when they knocked on his own door he longed to do something positive to help....
But there was another equally important reason why Müller contemplated founding an orphanage: he wanted to demonstrate to the world that there is a reality in the things of God. As he visited the members of his two congregations in Bristol he discovered repeatedly that people needed to have their faith strengthened.”
Müller long for “… Something that would act as a visible proof that our God and Father is the same faithful God as ever He was; as willing has ever to prove Himself to be the Living God, in our day as formerly, to all who put their trust in Him.”
For the next sixty-four years of his life until his death at the age of ninety-two, Müller irrefutably proved God's sufficiency and care on a truly grand scale. Orphans were taken in without any charge for admission. They were well cared for, taught the Word of God, given a good education, and sent out into the world equipped with a trade to earn a good living. Starting with thirty children in one house, over the course of his lifetime Müller built five large buildings of solid granite, capable of accommodating two thousand orphans at a time. In total, he cared for 10,024 orphans in his life. Additionally, he also established 117 schools which provided a solid Christian education to over 120,000 children. Most astounding of all, though, is the way in which George Müller accomplished those deeds.
Müller looked to God alone to supply their every need. Along with everyone that worked for him, he operated under the maxim that no person was ever asked for anything, regardless of how great or pressing a need might appear. With unwavering trust in God, Müller daily prayed for the Lord to provide the food, clothing, and shelter for the thousands of children under his care; and God never failed them. They never missed a meal; they never lacked. From the minutely careful records Müller kept, it is evidenced that over the course of his life, over a 1,400,000 pounds ($7,000,000) were sent to him for the building and maintaining of these orphan homes in answer to prayer.
The undeniable reality of God's provision was evident to everyone familiar with the work. Samuel Chadwick in his book, The Path of Prayer, relates an occasion when Dr. A. T. Pierson was the guest of George Müller at his orphanage:
One night when all the household had retired he [Müller] asked Pierson to join him in prayer. He told him that there was absolutely nothing in the house for next morning’s breakfast. My friend tried to remonstrate with him and to remind him that all the stores were closed. Müller knew all that. He had prayed as he always prayed, and he never told anyone of his needs but God. They prayed—at least Müller did—and Pierson tried to.
They went to bed and slept, and breakfast for two thousand children was there in abundance at the usual breakfast hour. Neither Müller nor Pierson ever knew how the answer came. The story was told next morning to Simon Short of Bristol, under pledge of secrecy until the benefactor died. The details of it are thrilling, but all that need be told here is that the Lord called him out of bed in the middle of the night to send breakfast to Müller’s orphanage, and knowing nothing of the need, or of the two men at prayer, he sent provisions that would feed them a month.
Considering the extraordinary power in the prayer life of George Müller, it would be easy for some to regard him as a man with some special “gift of faith.” Müller himself, however, was quick to correct that misconception. In 1869, Müller wrote:
It is the selfsame faith which is found in every believer, and the growth of which I am most sensible of to myself; for, by little and little, it has been increasing for the last forty-three years. Oh! I beseech you, do not think me an extraordinary believer, having privileges above other of God's dear children, which they cannot have; nor look on my way of acting as something that would not do for other believers.
To those believers who desire to see for themselves that “God is faithful still, and hears prayer still,” George Müller pointed them first to the Scriptures. There, he encouraged, they would come to know the loving Father who is always willing and able to supply our every need.
It is through the understanding of the Bible that Christians can learn how to get prayers answered and gain an accurate knowledge of faith. In the twentieth century, Dr. Victor Paul Wierwille, a great admirer of George Müller, taught people all over the world how to allow the Word of God to interpret itself, so that they too could see the power of God as Müller did. And through the ministry of Wierwille, a new generation of young men and women became familiar with, and affected by, the inspiring life of George Müller.