This week's "thought" comes from the well-known man of faith George Mueller of Bristol, England (1805-1898). The testimony of his life is both amazing and inspiring, with many books being written about him. For at one point in his life he decided to live entirely by faith, asking God alone, through prayer, to meet his financial needs. It was difficult at first, and with no fixed income he was sometimes down to his last penny before the Lord would supply his need, but God always did. And soon he was not only able to support himself and his wife Susannah, but eventually build 5 orphan homes which housed over 10,000 orphans from 1834-1898. And as if that were not enough to occupy his time, would minister in 42 countries (the last at age 87), and preach 3 times a week during this time. Yet even with so many to take care of, he still stayed true to his conviction not to make his needs known to anyone but God in prayer.
In the last 68 years of his life (he lived to be 92), he obtained through prayer the equivalent of $7,200,000.00 and never asked anyone directly for any money. In those last 68 years he never took a salary for his ministry but trusted God to put in people's hearts to send him what he needed. He never took out a loan and never went into debt. And neither he nor the orphans were ever hungry. Much to his credit, and unlike many today, "George Mueller never prayed for a thing just because he wanted it, or even just because he felt it was greatly needed for God’s work. He would search the Scriptures to find if there was some promise that covered the case. Sometimes he would search the scriptures for days before he presented his petition to God. And then when he found the promise, with his open Bible before him, and his finger upon that promise, he would plead that promise, and so he received what he asked. He always prayed with an open Bible before him" (R. A. Torrey). The story of his life is indeed inspiring, with many accounts of God's miraculous provision and answers to prayer.
This excerpt is what has been called "George Mueller's Secret," or his personal method of sustaining his inward joy and happiness in Christ amidst the many stresses and responsibilities laid upon him by virtue of overseeing such a large ministry. I have often reflected back on it and sought to practice his method. I pray it might be of help to you as well. Enjoy.
“It has pleased the Lord to teach me a truth, the benefit of which I have not lost for more than fourteen years. What is that truth? I saw more clearly than ever that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not how much I might serve the Lord; but how I might get my soul in a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished. For I might seek to benefit believers, I might seek to relieve the distressed, I might in other ways seek to behave myself as it becomes a child of God in this world, and yet not being happy in the Lord, and not being strengthened in my inner man day by day, all this might not be attended to in the right spirit.
Before this time my practice had been, at least for ten years previously, as an habitual thing, to give myself to prayer after having dressed in the morning. Now, I saw that the most important thing was to give myself to the reading of God's Word, and to meditation on it, that thus my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved, instructed; and that thus, by means of the Word of God, whilst meditating on it, my heart might be brought into experimental communion with the Lord. I began therefore to meditate on the New Testament from the beginning, early in the morning. The first thing I did, after having asked in a few words of the Lord's blessing upon His precious Word, was to begin to meditate on the Word of God, searching as it were into every verse to get blessing out of it; not for the sake of the public ministry of the Word, not for the sake of preaching on what I had meditated upon, but for the sake of obtaining food for my own soul.
The difference, then, between my former practice and my present on is this: formerly, when I rose, I began to pray as soon as possible, and generally spent all my time till breakfast in prayer, or almost all the time. At all events I almost invariably began with prayer.... But what was the result? I often spent a quarter of an hour, or half an hour, or even an hour on my knees before being conscious to myself of having derived comfort, encouragement, humbling of soul, etc.; and often, after having suffered much from my mind wandering for the first ten minutes, or quarter of an hour, or even half an hour, I only then really began to pray. I scarcely ever suffer now in this way. For my heart being nourished by the truth, being brought into experimental fellowship with God, I speak to my Father and to my Friend (vile though I am, and unworthy of it) about the things that He has brought before me in His precious Word. If often now astonishes me that I did not see this point sooner...
And yet now, since God has taught me this point, it is as plain to me as anything that the first thing the child of God has to do morning by morning is to obtain food for his inner man. Now what is food for the inner man? Not prayer, but the Word of God; and here again, not the simple reading of the Word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water passes through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it and applying it to our hearts. When we pray we speak to God. Now prayer, in order to be continued for any length of time in any other than a formal manner, requires, generally speaking, a measure of strength or godly desire, and the season therefore when this exercise of the soul can be most effectually performed is after the inner man has been nourished by meditation on the Word of God, where we find our Father speaking to us, to encourage us, to comfort us, to instruct us, to humble us, to reprove us. We may therefore profitably meditate with God's blessing though we are ever so weak spiritually; nay, the weaker we are, the more we need meditation for the strengthening of our inner man.
Thus, there is far less to be feared from wandering of mind than if we give ourselves to prayer without having had time previously for meditation. I dwell so particularly on this point because of the immense spiritual profit and refreshment I am conscious of having derived from it myself, and I affectionately and solemnly beseech all my fellow believers to ponder this matter. By the blessing of God, I ascribe to this mode the help and strength which I have had from God to pass in peace through deeper trials, in various ways, than I have ever had before; and having now above fourteen years tried this way, I can most fully, in the fear of God, commend it.”
It is my hope that this "secret" comes to be known far and wide, and that it might be used to encourage and challenge many to follow in his footsteps. Obviously, given all Mueller accomplished in his life, no one can say, "It was easy for him back then, life wasn't as busy then as we are today." For when I think of all that he did, I find it hard to comprehend how he managed to do it all! Of course, the answer surely lies (to some degree) in the secret he shares above. You may seek to try it and see!
In the Service of Jesus, Pastor Jeff