Born NOVEMBER 9, 1865A handful of Christians are remembered for their excep-tional prayer lives. One outstanding individual was an Illinois-born missionary to India. John Hyde’s prayer practices gained him the nickname “Praying Hyde.”
STANDING IN THE GAP
John and his older brother Edmund were the sons of a Presbyterian pastor. When the brothers were both young men, Edmund preceded John to seminary. The elder sibling anticipated serving on the foreign missions field. However, during a summer stint with Sunday school missions in Montana, Edmund contracted mountain fever. He returned home by train, very ill. Back in Illinois, he rested, but never recovered.
John grieved his personal loss. Then he sensed the greater loss from Edmund’s absence on earth. Edmund would no longer be available to spread the gospel to other lands. John made a decision. He believed, after completing his education, he should travel overseas to take his brother’s place.
He arrived in India in 1892. John was stationed in the Punjab region (currently part of both northern India and eastern Pakistan). At first his abilities were questioned. John was soft-spoken and not as assertive as expected. His hesitation was due in part to slight hear-ing loss. There were those who wondered if he could hear the native language sufficiently enough to learn it.
A LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS
John did learn the language. But he spent more time in Bible study than language study. It became evident whenever John spoke that if the missionary lacked mastery of every word in the national language, he certainly had a mastery of the word of God .
In 1899, John’s hunger to see more results drove him to prayer throughout the night. It became a habit. He wrote in his journal, “I never before knew what it was to work all day and then pray all night before God for another.” John saw results. His faith and prayer life grew.
After ten years on the mission field John visited the United States. He preached often about the power of prayer. He urged his listeners to draw closer to God by praying for themselves and to join him in praying for more conversions in India. God answered their prayers.
WATCH AND PRAY
In the year 1904, two things changed India’s spiritual future. John and some other missionaries formed the Punjab Prayer Union. Its purpose was to pray for spiritual breakthroughs. Members were required to answer five questions concerning the seriousness of their prayer lives. The last statement they agreed to was to “pray till the awakening comes.”
The second strategic event in 1904 grew out of the first one. The Sialkot Convention (in the city of Sialkot) was initiated to train Christian leaders. John and two other missionaries spent the thirty days and nights preceding the event in prayer.
ADDING TO THE CHURCH DAILY
Year after year, the annual Sialkot Convention changed those who attended. Missionaries, evangelists, teachers, and other Christian workers experienced a deeper burden for the souls of India. They grew hungrier to know and obey God’s word. Each of their prayer lives improved.
When it was time for the 1908 convention, John took another giant step in his faith walk. He trusted God to help him lead one person per day to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. His increased burden kept him praying many nights and fasting frequently. Between the 1908 and the 1909 conventions, John made 400 converts. But he wasn’t satisfied.
Each year thereafter, John set higher goals. He kept praying, like Jabez, for God to enlarge his borders. At the 1910 Sialkot Convention, he publicly cried out, “Oh God, give me souls or I die!” But John didn’t just pray; he found those who didn’t know his Savior and spent time with them. He once stated, “When we keep near to Jesus it is He who draws souls to Himself through us.”
HE KEPT THE FAITH
John lived to see an amazing spiritual awakening in India. Year after year, the revival among Christian workers grew. Year after year, conversions of native-born Indians increased. Those who knew John knew why; they called him “Praying Hyde.”
A bout with Typhoid Fever affected John’s health. After 1910, his condition progressively worsened. He returned to the United States in 1911. He died in Carthage, Illinois on February 17, 1912. Did John Hyde, who went to the mission field in the place of his brother, feel he’d succeeded for God’s kingdom? The final words he spoke suggest he did: “Shout the victory of Jesus Christ!”
LET ME KNOW: How has John’s story informed, encouraged, or otherwise helped you? I welcome your comments.
- Duewel, Wesley L. Heroes of the Holy Life. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing, 2002.
- McGaw, Francis A. Praying Hyde: Glimpses of the Amazing Prayer-life of a Missionary Whose Intercession Changed Things for the Sialkot Revival. The Sunday School Times Company, 1923.
- Carre, E.G., ed. Praying Hyde, Apostle of Prayer. Alachus, FL: Bridge -Logos, 1982.(This book combines various sources)
- McGraw, Francis A. Praying Hyde. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1970. (This is a reprint of the 1923 edition in the bibliography)
- Miller, Basil. Praying Hyde. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing, 1943.