George Mueller of Bristol
After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
Matthew 6: 9-13
Over my journey as a disciple of Christ, there have been some things that I’ve been exposed to that have created what I term ‘forever changes’ in me and have deeply impacted how I walk out the Christian life. One of those ideas came from my exposure to George Mueller and Rees Howells early on.
If you don’t know, both of those men were men of prayer, specifically the practice of secret prayer or prayer that is to God alone, not sharing the prayer items with other people. Both men saw tremendous results from this approach to prayer with Mueller alone recording over 50,000 specific answers to prayer in his journals. Mind you, those are specific answers to secret prayer; no one knew what he was asking God for or what was needed for his work with orphans.
To me, this was something to be fully embraced. First, because it was way more challenging than the examples of prayer that I saw around me and secondly because I have always been drawn to the genuine things of God, not man’s ideas of it that are birthed in spiritual excuses.
And so near the start of my ministry I determined to strive to ‘pray everything in’ or what my parent’s generation of Pentecostals called ‘live by faith’. It sounds terribly romantic, doesn’t it? The idea of it being you and God against the world, living by faith alone and not depending on your own efforts to supply needs but rather allowing God to be glorified alone through answered prayer?
Well, it was rough rather than romantic.
There were no books or sources that told you how to do it. I mean, there were some hints and clues left behind in the writings and teachings of others but there was no definitive guide on how exactly to pull any of it off.
I saw some tremendous results over the years, I really did. And those results always have me the inspiration that I needed to continue on. And I needed that inspiration badly in the face of my own ignorance and weaknesses and failures.
You see, like the two blind men in Matthew 20, when you are crying out for something from God that is different than those that surround you, they will always seek to quiet you. And I have been attacked relentlessly by Christians over the years for my stubborn insistence on living by faith.
In an age when the “church” is living in Goshen by the leave of the World System, nothing seems more natural than using natural methods to gain support like newsletters pleading for help or supporting the work with a secular job. It’s how everyone does it after all and God understands that you need to keep the ministry going or support your family.
Well, that always offended me deeply. I always insisted that if what I am believing and saying is true, then God must keep his word and supply. And so I dug my heels in, not listening as the church tore me apart or extended family vilified me for not engaging the World System like everyone else. To be honest, this stubbornness has cost me dearly, not only in immediate things like security, earthly prosperity and relationships but also it has cost me my faith at times.
What they don’t tell you when you’re signing up to blaze trails is that there really are no maps, no trails and no signposts between where you are and where you’re going. It’s akin to all of the townsfolk of St. Louis pleading with Lewis and Clark to not go into the wilderness when society had everything that anyone would ever need. Then their friends, family and church members all abandon them as well.
The thing is, when you get exploration in your heart, nothing else can satisfy you. And the dogged determination that it takes to hold the line and continue is the very thing that costs you everything and leaves you quite alone. That and the subsequent failures, mishaps and weaknesses that arise as a result of the hardships of the journey itself.
I believed that I had all the necessary tools starting out 28 years ago, I really did. I had courage, blind faith and my stubborn nature. Along the way though, the cost of trying something like this was too much, the effort required too great and the pressure too severe.
There were numerous times over the years when I switched from an active faith (faith that procures) to a passive faith (faith that endures) simply due to the savage nature of the fight.
When you are praying everything in and not relying on a consistent source of income or a secular job, every need is an emergency and every minute a battle. You aren’t waiting until payday to pay the electric bill or the rent or mortgage, there are no guarantees of payday and there’s no clear idea when, if or how the bills will get paid. And if I’m being honest, this constant battle wore me down. When I should have prayed, I hid in some other activity. When I should have been in faith, I engaged passive faith that God would take care of it on his own because he knew the situation. When I would see my family in need or our lack of conventional prosperity, I took it as a personal failure and truly began to despise the very journey that had launched me to begin with.
After all of these years though, I’ve learned some things. Things that you probably won’t hear in church, things that they have forgotten that they knew in the past. Plus I have the scars to prove my own failures as I struggled through the bramble and there is no greater source for saving time and effort than someone else’s mistakes.
We live in a time when the unawakened world is desperately seeking genuine answers, not regurgitated dogma. Religion repels them and the tenuous hold many Christians have on foundational elements of their own faith only causes the unawakened to run from you.
“If this is so, where is God?” is the question on the hearts of so many today. And when they look to the church they find groups of like-minded people that have moral religious sentiments that they hold in common with no physical, practical proof that any of it is real. That’s not something to follow, that is the blind leading the blind. The claim that a heart faith without external proofs is all that we have is hogwash. Your light is supposed to shine and not be hidden away in your heart and when the World sees your works, they will glorify God.
But we know very little of the God who answers by fire today.
This must change if we are to see the active demonstration of the Kingdom of God and alleviate suffering in our lifetime, not to mention leaving guideposts of value for successive generations.
I have learned quite a bit over the years regarding secret prayer and procuring faith and I want to share some of this with you. First off though let me say that it is imperative that you fully understand that in this fight that’s ahead of you, only action will bring you increase. When you muddy the waters of procuring faith with the passivity of enduring faith, you’re going to lose. This is a fight and the fight continues until the bell rings, friend. When you let up on the gas, you can be sure that the momentary respite that you’re seeking will end up in coasting and finally with stalling on the side of the road.
So, count the cost and employ the necessary discipline from the start of the fight to the end. And once you’ve won, take a breath if you need to but then seek the next faith project immediately. Do not sit still waiting for the next emergency before you decide to employ prayer or faith.