“Why is it that when we talk to God, it’s called prayer, but when God talks to us, it’s called schizophrenia?” – Lily Tomlin
I’ve been praying for a mentor for a couple months now – someone much older and wiser who can spend some time with me every now and then and teach me – specifically how to pray. God’s answered that prayer.
One man’s name kept coming up a few weeks ago: George Müller. I saw a quote from him in a book I was reading and I instantly had this urge to read more about his life – an urgent urge like you get when you realize you’ve left the coffee pot on back at home. I was busy that day and couldn’t make time to do anything about it but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I needed to.
When I woke up the next day I spent some time asking God how I should pray and then I sat listening in silence. All I could think about was learning more about George Müller. OK, I said, I’ll buy a book! I wound up getting a biography written in the 1890s by a close friend of Müller’s.
It’s been tough to wade through – I’m still not through it after a few weeks. The English is old and the book reads like it was written by an accountant or engineer – impersonal and stoic – not at all what I was expecting. But what it does very well is prove, with story after story, that God hears our prayers…or at least George Müller’s.
And I needed to believe that while asking God many times every day to heal Amy. I needed to learn all over again how to pray. I needed to believe it mattered.
I underline stuff in my books. And if underlining the good stuff means underlining an entire page, then I dog ear it instead. Well, this biography is heavily dog-eared. Every other page sometimes.
There’s so much wisdom in it that I want to be able to come back to again and again. For instance, Müller believed in arguing with God. He cited example after example in scripture where a man would lay out a case to God, spelling out – to the One who knows everything! – exactly why He should act. Müller believed this was mostly to build our own confidence and faith and to help us pray “in accordance with God’s will” but he couldn’t say for sure that it didn’t move God in some mysterious way too.
He crafted his arguments out of scripture, and he knew a lot of it. As he read the Bible every day he absorbed the names of God, the promises of God and the will of God. They went into a sort of prayer arsenal in his head. Then, when the time came to pray, God would help George recall the right information and form a solid argument from it.
So, for instance, he felt that God wanted him to start an orphanage but he didn’t have the funds or personnel to get it off the ground. One day George read that God calls Himself the “Father Of The Fatherless.” He knew that title said something not only about who God is but what God wills and does. So he brought that scripture to God and “reminded” God that He is the Father Of The Fatherless, that He cares for them. George asked God to care for them through his orphanage. He reminded God that if the orphanage is for His glory then God should also sustain the orphanage financially because if He didn’t then His glory “would be dimmed.” This, George Müller believed, was what it meant to pray the will of God. Impossible without knowing the word of God.
Müller never asked anyone for money, and often lived in tremendous hardship and poverty, but everything he needed showed up in the right amount at the right time.
This has forever changed the way I think about prayer. And by following George’s example I’m already seeing my faith grow and my desire to pray increase too. So much anxiety that I didn’t even know I was carrying is gone now. My conscience is more sensitive, my focus is sharper, my awareness of God is heightened, my desire to read the Bible is up too and I’m certain prayer is meaningful.
George Müller learned to pray by reading the biography of another man long dead. He read that man’s story because his mentor recommended it to him. George Müller’s mentor was his father-in-law, a man who gave up his wealth to live more simply so that he could be more generous and others could simply live. Interestingly, his father-in-law’s name was “Mr. Groves.”
Now, call me crazy, but maybe God’s talking to me. And maybe while I wait for my flesh and blood mentor to arrive, George Müller is mentoring me the way Mr. Groves mentored him, teaching me how to ask God for what I know I need.