One of the most important lessons to be learned from George Mueller's prayer life is how to respond when prayer requests are not quickly answered. For the thousands of Mueller's prayer requests God answered quickly, there were thousands which He delayed in answering. As one reads through Mueller's narratives it is striking how often God made George wait for an answer. How did Mueller respond when God delayed? Through prayer. If God is slow in answering prayer, do not give up. Rather, pray more often.
Mueller writes, "One or the other might suppose that all my prayers have been thus promptly answered. No, not all of them. Sometimes I have had to wait weeks, months or years, sometimes many years . . . During the first six weeks of the year 1866 I heard of the conversion of six person for whom I had been praying a long time. For one I had been praying between two and three years. For another between three and four years; for another above seven years, for the fourth above ten years, for the fifth above fifteen years, and for the sixth above twenty years. In one instance my faith has been tried even more than this. In November 1844,I began to pray for the conversion of five individuals. I prayed every day without one single intermission, whether in sick or in health, on the land or on the sea, and whatever the pressure of my engagements may be... two remain unconverted . . . But I hope in God, I pray on, and I look yet for the answer." (Steer, p.266,267)
On one of Muellers many missionary tours, a man who was greatly discouraged came up to him for counsel. This man had six sons for whom he had been praying many years. His sons, in spite of all his prayers showed no interest in God or their souls. He wanted George to tell him what to do. Mueller simply replied, "Continue to pray for your sons, and expect and answer to your prayers, and you will have to praise God." (Brooks, p.73)
When Mueller desired to increase the number of orphans from three hundred to one thousand, he began to pray for God's help in the matter. He kept on praying day after day for eleven years until God answered his prayer.
When Mueller was opening a new home and needed more helpers for the orphan homes he sought the Lord in prayer. Yet when the home was about to open, he did not have enough applicants to fill the position. How did Mueller respond? By thanking God for previous answered prayers, and deciding not to pray just once a day for this
matter, but to pray three times a day for helpers. He did this daily for four months, and was pleased to see God answer his prayers in an incredible way.” (Brooks,p.50)
Mueller sums up his attitude by simply saying, "When once I am persuaded that a thing is right and for the glory of God, I go on praying until the answer comes. George Mueller never gives up." (Steer, p.310)
Mueller was persistent in prayer for several reasons.
First, he truly believed that God did answer prayer. God's slowness did not shake Mueller's faith. Before Mueller opened his first orphan house he prayed daily for fourteen months and three weeks. "Never during all that time had I the least doubt that I should have all that is needed." (Brooks, p.46)
Many of us have a difficult time continuing in prayer because in our heart of hearts we aren't sure whether God is really listening to our prayers. We must feed our faith with the promises of God. When we become discouraged we must remind ourselves that Jesus himself tells us, "What man is there among you, when his son shall ask him for a loaf, will give him a stone. Or if he shall ask for a fish, he will not give him a snake will he. If you then being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him." (Mat.7:9-11)
Mueller was confident in this promise and because of that he did not doubt the Father's goodness. "For through grace my mind is so fully assured of the faithfulness of the Lord, that in the midst of the greatest need, I am able to go about my other work. Indeed, if God did not give me this [this confidence in the faithfulness of God] . . . I should scarcely be able to work at all." (Miller, p.57)
Second, he believed that God had good reasons for being slow to answer certain
prayers. Mueller could actually rejoice when prayers were not immediately answered because of his complete trust in the wise purposes of God. When God did not immediately answer his prayers, George took it as a sign of His love, because by doing so, God was strengthening Mueller's faith. "Truly it is worth being poor and
greatly tried in faith for the sake of having day by day such precious proofs of the loving interest which our kind Father takes in everything that concerns us. And how should our Father do otherwise. He that has given us the greatest possible proof of His love which He could have done, in giving His own Son, surely will He with Him freely give us all things." (Brooks, 25,26)
Mueller taught that God would often wait to answer prayer in order to strengthen the believer's faith. When a believer's prayer are not answered quickly, rather than trying to take the matter into one's own hands, they should continually look to God for help and wait upon Him for His deliverance. This does not mean that the Christian should do nothing. Mueller believed that a do-nothing attitude was a "counterfeit of faith." (Steer, p.331) Instead the believer should persistently cry out to God and act in obedience to the Scriptures.
Third, Mueller kept praying even when he wasn't seeing 'results' because he believed that God delighted in His people's earnest prayers. The parable of the widow and the unjust judge gave Mueller great encouragement to continually bring His concerns before His gracious God. God wants His people to pray persistently.
Fourthly, Mueller was persistent in prayer because he longed for the glory of God above all else. "His glory was my chief aim . . . i.e that it might be seen that it is not a vain thing to trust in the living God." (Brooks, p.15) He puts it simply, "The glory of God should always be before the children of God, in what they desire at His hands . . ." (Pierson, p.456) The Christian's patience under trial can bring glory and honor to God. Mueller wasn't primarily concerned about Mueller, therefore he was content in all circumstances.
He had the attitude of the apostle Paul who said, "Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in all circumstances." Why could Paul say this? Because Paul was not living for Paul - Paul's life was hidden with Christ, and therefore it did not matter what his life circumstances were like so long as God was glorified. One of the primary reasons many of us have difficulties being persistent in prayer is that we pray with selfish motives, "You ask and you do not receive because you ask with the wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures." (James
A person who is primarily motivated by the glory of God will not become overly discouraged when his prayer requests are not immediately answered, instead he will rest in the promise of Romans 8:28, "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."
We must follow Mueller's example and continue in prayer even when it is most difficult. "Therefore beloved brethren and sisters, go on waiting upon God, go on praying, only be sure you ask for things which are according to the mind of God . . ." (Steer, p.257)Never give up!