I have recently read a biography of George Muller by Roger Steer with the subtitle "Delighted in God". This is a fascinating book about a remarkable man and I highly recommend it.
George Muller was born in Prussia in 1805. He became a Christian at the age of twenty and travelled to London in 1829. He soon moved to Devon and became the minister of a Brethren chapel but he is most famous for the work he began when he moved to Bristol in 1832. At this time there was virtually no provision by the State for orphaned children from the poorest families and they were doomed to live their childhood begging on the street or consigned to the workhouse. Muller decided to open an orphanage in Bristol saying:
"I certainly did from my heart desire to be used by God to benefit the bodies of poor children , bereaved of both parents, and seek, in other respects, with the help of God, to do them good for this life...but still, the first and primary object of the work was that God might be magnified by the fact that the orphans under my care are provided with all they need, only by prayer and faith, without anyone being asked by me or my fellow-labourers, whereby it may be seen that God is faithful still and hears prayers still."
Muller opened his first home for orphans in April 1836 and over the next 63 years, the work expanded until at his death in 1898, there were five homes at Ashley Down in Bristol. Muller received nearly one and a half million pounds to fund his work, a staggering figure in this era. Throughout his life, Muller and his associates did not ask anyone for a single penny. Indeed, when times were particularly lean, he cancelled public meetings so that he would not be tempted to ask for donations. Many instances where God remarkably provided for Muller's work are retold in the book and his work still continues today, albeit in a different form.
Towards the end of his life Muller said:
"For nearly seventy years every need in connection with this work has been supplied. The orphans from the first until now, have numbered nine thousand five hundred, but they have never wanted a meal. Never! Hundreds of times we have commenced the day without a penny in hand, but our Heavenly Father has sent supplies the moment they were actually required...During all these years I have been enabled to trust in God, in the living God, and in Him alone."
As I read Muller's story, two things in particular stood out for me. First, the primary goal of Muller's work was that God be glorified. He set out to bring in all the funds required by prayer and faith alone so that the world would see that God is faithful to answer the prayer of his servant. I think that there is a lesson here for us today. As we pray for our family, friends, neighbours and needs, is our underlying desire always that God will be glorified? In fact, is God's glory the motivating desire of our heart in all that we do? As it says in the Westminster Shorter Catechism,
"Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever."
Secondly, this great God who was so faithful to answer the prayers of George Muller is the same great God that we come to today:
"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:17
Praise God that we can bring our prayers great and small before him through his Son Jesus Christ.
"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:12