Last night I read a biography of George Mueller. The book was full of stories of how Mueller prayed for practical needs, with full faith and expectation, and God answered him in very amazing ways. One morning at the orphanage, when there was no food for breakfast, he said “Come see what our Father will do.” Then he went in to the children assembled for breakfast, with no food on the tables, and prayed, “Dear Father, we thank Thee for what Thou art going to give us to eat.” Just then the baker showed up with fresh bread that the Lord had told him to bring. Then the milkman appeared at the door, having had his cart break down outside the orphanage, and gave them milk from the cart so that he could empty his cart and repair it.
This is the most famous of the stories related in the biography of how Mueller prayed and was answered. There were lots of others. Mueller obviously prayed expecting God to act, and he taught others to do likewise.
At the same time, he did not always get what he asked for from God, and he did not ask for all he wished to receive. He was a minister during a cholera epidemic in Bristol, and there was no indication that everybody he prayed for was spared. He lost his wife, Mary, when he was 65. His son died when he was still very young, and his daughter and second wife died before Mueller. Surely he wished for those deaths to not happen. His prayers were also not always answered instantly. Sometimes he prayed for an extended period of time before God answered.
His response to Mary’s death was this:
‘The Lord is good, and doeth good,’ all will be according to His own blessed character. Nothing but that, which is good, like Himself, can proceed from Him. If he pleases to take my dearest wife, it will be good, like Himself. What I have to do, as His child, is to be satisfied with what my Father does, that I may glorify Him. After this my soul not only aimed, but this, my soul, by God’s grace, attained to. I was satisfied with God.” *
I often pray for others. I often pray for my own needs. God often answers in amazing ways. He has surely blessed me, and I certainly have evidence from my life of God’s active presence. When I pray, I don’t have the certainty to not hedge. God doesn’t always do what I ask him to do, especially not in the way I am expecting. I know that this is according to the good nature of God. The Lord is good, and doeth good.
How do we tell when we can pray with certainty that God will do what we ask, and when should we pray that God will do according to his good will and nature? Mueller’s answer was that we pray with certainty for those things that God has promised, and we pray conditionally for those things which God has not promised. Mueller put it this way:
For instance, the gift of faith would be needed, to believe that a sick person should be restored again though there is no human probability: for there is no promise to that effect; the grace of faith is needed to believe that the Lord will give me the necessaries of life, if I first seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness: for there is a promise to that effect.
His faith was based on his certainty of the sovereignty and goodness of God. Mueller insisted that faith is based in the joy in God. We attain that joy by knowing God, and we know God by reading and studying, pondering and applying, God’s word.
Mueller’s faith came from taking God at his word, and believing what God said. We can only pray with certainty when we know the nature and promises of God. We only can know the nature and promises of God from his word.
My dear Christian reader, will you not try this way? Will you not know for yourself . . . the preciousness and the happiness of this way of casting all your cares and burdens and necessities upon God? This way is as open to you as to me. . . . Every one is invited and commanded to trust in the Lord, to trust in Him with all his heart, and to cast his burden upon Him, and to call upon Him in the day of trouble. Will you not do this, my dear brethren in Christ? I long that you may do so. I desire that you may taste the sweetness of that state of heart, in which, while surrounded by difficulties and necessities, you can yet be at peace, because you know that the living God, your Father in heaven, cares for you.
I want a faith like that.
By the way. The biography I read last night was put out by YWAM Publishing. It was a book we picked up for Amy to read. The quotes above were taken from desiringgod.org, which mostly quotes from A narrative of Some of the Lord’s Dealing with George Muller.