November 20: What to do when God doesn’t answer your prayers?

George Muller

“As in the case of No. 2, so also in the case of the New Orphan-House No. 3, I had daily prayed for the needed helpers and assistants for the various departments. Before a stone was laid, I began to pray for this; and, as the building progressed, I continued day by day to bring this matter before God, feeling assured, that, as in everything else, so in this particular also, He would graciously be pleased to appear on our behalf and help us, as the whole work is intended for His honour and glory.

“At last the time was near when the house could be opened, and the time therefore near when the applications, which had been made in writing during more than two years previously, should be considered, for the filling up of the various posts. It now, however, was found that, whilst there had been about 50 applications made for the various[Pg 49] situations, some places could not be filled up, because either the individuals, who had applied for them, were married, or were, on examination, found unsuitable. This was no small trial of faith; for day by day, for years, had I asked God to help me in this particular, even as He had done in the case of the New Orphan-House No. 2; I had also expected help, confidently expected help: and yet now, when help seemed needed, it was wanting. What was now to be done, dear Reader? Would it have been right to charge God with unfaithfulness? Would it have been right to distrust Him? Would it have been right to say, it is useless to pray? By no means. This, on the contrary, I did; I thanked God for all the help, He had given me in connection with the whole of the enlargement; I thanked Him for enabling me to overcome so many and such great difficulties; I thanked Him for the helpers He had given me for No. 2; I thanked Him, also, for the helpers He had given me already for No. 3; and instead of distrusting God, I looked upon this delay of the full answer to prayer, only as a trial of faith, and therefore resolved, that, instead of praying once a day with my dear wife about this matter, as we had been doing day by day for years, we should now meet daily three times, to bring this before God. I also brought the matter before the whole staff of my helpers in the work requesting their prayers. Thus I have now continued for about four months longer in prayer, day by day calling upon God three times on account of this[Pg 50] need, and the result has been, that one helper after the other has been given, without the help coming too late, or the work getting into confusion; or the reception of the children being hindered; and I am fully assured, that the few who are yet needed will also be found, when they are really required.”

November 19: How long does it take a prayer request to be answered?

George Muller

March 12, 1862.—It was in November, 1850, that my mind became exercised about enlarging the Orphan Work from 300 Orphans to 1000, and subsequently to 1150; and it was in June, 1851, that this my purpose became known, having kept it secret for more than seven months, whilst day by day praying about it. From the end of November, 1850, to this day, March 12, 1862, not one single day has been allowed to pass, without this contemplated enlargement being brought before God in prayer, and generally more than once a day. But only now, this day, the New Orphan-House No. 3 was so far advanced, that it could be opened. Observe then, first, esteemed Reader, how long it may be, before a full answer to our prayers, even to thousands and tens of thousands of prayers, is granted; yea, though those prayers may be believing prayers, earnest prayers, and offered up in the name of the Lord Jesus, and though we may only for the sake of the honour of our Lord desire the answer: for I did, by the grace of God, without the least doubt and wavering look for more than eleven years for the full answer; * * * and I sought only in this matter the glory of God.

November 18: Praying for spiritual prosperity

George Muller

On May 25th, I began to ask the Lord for greater real spiritual prosperity among the saints, among whom I labour in Bristol, than there ever yet had been among them; and now I have to record to the praise of the Lord that truly He has answered this request; for, considering all things, at no period has there been more manifestation of grace and truth, and spiritual power among us, than there is now while I am writing this for the press (1845). Not that we have attained to what we might; we are far, very far from it; but the Lord has been very, very good to us, and we have most abundant cause for thanksgiving.

November 17: How did George Muller get orphans for the orphan house?

George Muller

So far as I remember, I brought even the most minute circumstances concerning the Orphan-House before the Lord in my petitions, being conscious of my own weakness and ignorance.

There was, however, one point I never had prayed about, namely that the Lord would send children; for I naturally took it for granted that there would be plenty of applications.

The nearer, however, the day came which had been appointed for receiving applications, the more I had a secret consciousness, that the Lord might disappoint my natural expectations, and show me that I could not prosper in one single thing without Him.

The appointed time came, and not even one application was made. I had before this been repeatedly tried, whether I might not, after all, against the Lord’s mind, have engaged in the work.

This circumstance now led me to lie low before my God in prayer the whole of the evening, February 3, and to examine my heart once more as to all the motives concerning it; and being able, as formerly, to say, that His glory was my chief aimi. e., that it might be seen that it is not a vain thing to trust in the living God,—and that my second aim was the spiritual welfare of the orphan-children,—and the third their bodily welfare; and still continuing in prayer, I was at last brought to this state, that I could say from my heart, that I should rejoice in God being glorified in this matter, though it were by bringing the whole to nothing.

But as still, after all, it seemed to me more tending to the glory of God, to establish and prosper the Orphan-House, I could then ask Him heartily, to send applications. I enjoyed now a peaceful state of heart concerning the subject, and was also more assured than ever that God would establish it.

The very next day, February 4, the first application was made, and since then 42 more have been made.”

November 16: How did George Muller decide what to preach from?

George Muller

That which I now considered the best mode of preparation for the public ministry of the word, no longer adopted from necessity, on account of want of time, but from deep conviction, and from the experience of God’s blessing upon it, both as it regards my own enjoyment, the benefit of the saints, and the conversion of sinners, is as follows:

First, I do not presume to know myself what is best for the hearers, and I therefore ask the Lord, in the first place, that he would graciously be pleased to teach me on what subject I shall speak, or what portion of his word I shall expound.

Now, sometimes it happens that, previous to my asking him, a subject or passage has been in my mind, on which it has appeared well for me to speak.

In that case, I ask the Lord whether I should speak on this subject or passage. If, after prayer, I feel persuaded that I should, I fix upon it, yet so that I would desire to leave myself open to the Lord to change it if he please.

Frequently, however, it occurs that I have no text or subject in my mind, before I give myself to prayer for the sake of ascertaining the Lord’s will concerning it.

In this case, I wait some time on my knees for an answer, trying to listen to the voice of the Spirit to direct me.

If, then, a passage or subject, whilst I am on my knees, or after I have finished praying for a text, is brought to my mind, I again ask the Lord, and that sometimes repeatedly, especially if, humanly speaking, the subject or text should be a peculiar one, whether it be his will that I should speak on such a subject or passage.

If, after prayer, my mind is peaceful about it, I take this to be the text, but still desire to leave myself open to the Lord for direction, should he please to alter it, or should I have been mistaken.

Frequently, also, in the third place, it happens that I not only have no text nor subject on my mind previous to my praying for guidance in this matter, but also I do not obtain one after once, or twice, or more times praying about it.

I used formerly at times to be much perplexed when this was the case, but, for more than twenty years, it has pleased the Lord, in general at least, to keep me in peace about it.

What I do is, to go on with my regular reading of the Scriptures, where I left off the last time, praying (whilst I read) for a text, now and then also laying aside my Bible for prayer, till I get one.

Thus it has happened that I have had to read five, ten, yea, twenty chapters, before it has pleased the Lord to give me a text; yea, many times I have even had to go to the place of meeting without one, and obtained it, perhaps, only a few minutes before I was going to speak; but I have never lacked the Lord’s assistance at the time of preaching, provided I had earnestly sought it in private.

The preacher cannot know the particular state of the various individuals who compose the congregation, nor what they require, but the Lord knows it; and if the preacher renounces his own wisdom, he will be assisted by the Lord; but if he will choose in his own wisdom, then let him not be surprised if he should see little benefit result from his labors.

November 15: How did George Muller feel comforted?

George Muller

June 25, 1834: These last three days I have had very little real communion with God, and have therefore been very weak spiritually, and have several times felt irritability of temper.

June 26, 1834: I was enabled, by the grace of God, to rise early, and I had nearly two hours in prayer before breakfast. I feel now this morning more comfortable.

Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.

Psalm 55:17

November 14: George Muller needed private prayer

George Muller

April 21, 1832:

I would offer here a word of warning to believers. Often the work of the Lord itself may be a temptation to keep us from that communion with him which is so essential to the benefit of our own souls.

On the 19th I had left Dartmouth, conversed a good deal that day, preached in the evening, walked afterwards eight miles, had only about five hours’ sleep, travelled again the next day twenty-five miles, preached twice, and conversed very much besides, went to bed at eleven, and arose before five.

All this shows that my body and spirit required rest, and, therefore, however careless about the Lord’s work I might have appeared to my brethren, I ought to have had a great deal of quiet time for prayer and reading the word, especially as I had a long journey before me that day, and as I was going to Bristol, which in itself required much prayer.

Instead of this, I hurried to the prayer meeting, after a few minutes’ private prayer. But let none think that public prayer will make up for closet communion.

Then again, afterwards, when I ought to have withdrawn myself, as it were, by force, from the company of beloved brethren and sisters, and given my testimony for the Lord, (and, indeed, it would have been the best testimony I could have given them,) by telling them that I needed secret communion with the Lord, I did not do so, but spent the time, till the coach came, in conversation with them.

Now, however profitable in some respects it may have been made to those with whom I was on that morning, yet my own soul needed food; and not having had it, I was lean, and felt the effects of it the whole day; and hence I believe it came that I was dumb on the coach, and did not speak a word for Christ, nor give away a single tract, though I had my pockets full on purpose.

November 13: George Muller’s Prayers Answered

George Muller

About the same time, also, my wife and I had grace given to us to take the Lord’s commandment, “Sell that ye have, and give alms,” Luke xii. 33, literally, and to carry it out. Our staff and support in this matter were Matthew vi. 19-34, John xiv. 13, 14. We leaned on the arm of the Lord Jesus. It is now twenty-five years since we set out in this way, and we do not in the least regret the step we then took. As I have written down how the Lord has been pleased to deal with us since, I shall be able to relate some facts concerning this matter, as far as they may tend to edification.

Nov. 18, 1830. Our money was reduced to about eight shillings. When I was praying with my wife in the morning, the Lord brought to my mind the state of our purse, and I was led to ask him for some money. About four hours after, a sister said to me, “Do you want any money?” “I told the brethren,” said I, “dear sister, when I gave up my salary, that I would for the future tell the Lord only about my wants.” She replied, “But he has told me to give you some money. About a fortnight ago, I asked him what I should do for him, and he told me to give you some money; and last Saturday it came again powerfully to my mind, and has not left me since, and I felt it so forcibly last night that I could not help speaking of it to brother P.” My heart rejoiced, seeing the Lord’s faithfulness, but I thought it better not to tell her about our circumstances, lest she should be influenced to give accordingly; and I also was assured that, if it were of the Lord, she could not but give. I therefore turned the conversation to other subjects, but when I left she gave me two guineas. We were full of joy on account of the goodness of the Lord. I would call upon the reader to admire the gentleness of the Lord, that he did not try our faith much at the commencement, but allowed us to see his willingness to help us, before he was pleased to try it more fully.

The next Wednesday I went to Exmouth, our money having then again been reduced to about nine shillings. I asked the Lord on Thursday, when at Exmouth, to be pleased to give me some money. On Friday morning, about eight o’clock, whilst in prayer, I was particularly led to ask again for money; and before I rose from my knees I had the fullest assurance that we should have the answer that very day. About nine o’clock I left the brother with whom I was staying, and he gave me half a sovereign, saying, “Take this for the expenses connected with your coming to us.” I did not expect to have my expenses paid, but I saw the Lord’s fatherly hand in sending me this money within one hour after my asking him for some. But even then I was so fully assured that the Lord would send more that very day, or had done so already, that, when I came home about twelve o’clock, I asked my wife whether she had received any letters. She told me she had received one the day before from a brother in Exeter, with three sovereigns. Thus even my prayer on the preceding day had been answered. The next day one of the brethren came and brought me four pounds, which was due to me of my former salary, but which I could never have expected, as I did not even know that this sum was due to me. Thus I received, within thirty hours, in answer to prayer, seven pounds ten shillings.

About Christmas, when our money was reduced to a few shillings, I asked the Lord for more; when, a few hours after, there was given to us a sovereign by a brother from Axminster. This brother had heard much against me, and was at last determined to hear for himself, and thus came to Teignmouth, a distance of forty miles; and having heard about our manner of living, gave us this money.

With this closes the year 1830. Throughout it the Lord richly supplied all my temporal wants, though at the commencement of it I had no certain human prospect for one single shilling: so that, even as it regards temporal things, I had not been in the smallest degree a loser in acting according to the dictates of my conscience; and as it regards spiritual things, the Lord had dealt bountifully with me, and had condescended to use me as an instrument in doing his work.

November 12: How to ascertain the Will of God

George Muller
  1. 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 trouble with people generally is just here. 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.
  2. Having done this, I do not leave the result to feeling or simple impression. If so, I make myself liable to great delusions.
  3. 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. If the Holy Ghost guides us at all, He will do it according to the Scriptures and never contrary to them.
  4. Next I take into account providential circumstances. These often plainly indicate God’s Will in connection with His Word and Spirit.
  5. I ask God in prayer to reveal His Will to me aright.
  6. 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 in transactions involving most important issues, I have found this method always effective.

GEORGE MÜLLER.

June 11: Daniel Whittle: God answered George Müller’s prayers

Daniel W. Whittle
Daniel W. Whittle

We met Daniel Whittle yesterday – and will be looking at some of the answers to prayer that he has collected in his book. Daniel Whittle was talking about the importance of taking everything – large or small – to God in prayer. He continues with a meeting he happened to have with George Müller.

It was my happiness to cross the Atlantic in the company of this dear brother [George Müller] on the steamship Sardinian, from Quebec to Liverpool, in June, 1880.

I met Mr. Müller in the express office the morning of sailing, about half an hour before the tender was to take the passengers to the ship. He asked of the agent if a deck chair had arrived for him from New York. He was answered, No, and told that it could not possibly come in time for the steamer. I had with me a chair I had just purchased and told Mr. Müller of the place near by, where I had obtained it, and suggested that as but a few moments remained he had better buy one at once.

His reply was, “No, my brother, Our Heavenly Father will send the chair from New York. It is one used by Mrs. Miller, as we came over, and left in New York when we landed. I wrote ten days ago to a brother who promised to see it forwarded here last week.He has not been prompt as I would have desired, but I am sure Our Heavenly Father will send the chair. Mrs. Müller is very sick upon the sea, and has particularly desired to have this same chair, and not finding it here yesterday when we arrived, as we expected, we have made special prayer that Our Heavenly Father would be pleased to provide it for us, and we will trust Him to do so.” As this dear man of God went peacefully on board the tender, running the risk of Mrs. Müller making the voyage without a chair, when for a couple of dollars she could have been provided for, I confess I feared Mr. Müller was carrying his faith principles too far and not acting wisely.

I was kept at the express office ten minutes after Mr. Müller left. Just as I started to hurry to the wharf a team drove up the street, and on top of a load just arrived from New York, was Mr. Müller’s chair! It was sent at once to the tender and placed in my hands to take to Mr. Müller (the Lord having a lesson for me) just as the boat was leaving the dock. I found Mr. and Mrs. Müller in a retired spot on one side of the tender and handed him the chair. He took it with the happy, pleased expression of a child who has just received a kindness deeply appreciated, and reverently removing his hat and folding his hands over it, he thanked his Heavenly Father for sending the chair. “In everything by prayer and supplication let your requests be made known unto God.” “Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you.”

From the book, The Wonders of Prayer, by Daniel W. Whittle.