John Hyde was born in Illinois, USA, on November 9, 1865.
His father, Dr Smith Hyde, was a Presbyterian minister, and in that manse the power of prayer became a reality to young John. In later years John would be known to his fellow missionaries as “Praying” Hyde. Smith and his godly wife prayed fervently that God would send labourers into the harvest field and, in time, three of their six children heeded that call.
In his senior year at McCormack Theological Seminary John heard the call to be a missionary and he became a mission enthusiast, pleading with fellow students to also commit to missions.
On 15 October, 1892, he and five other Presbyterian missionaries sailed for India. John found in his cabin a letter from a dear minister friend of his father who loved John dearly. It said, “I shall not cease praying for you, dear John, until you are filled with the Spirit.” This greatly insulted John and he went up on deck in a rage. However, as he reflected on the saintliness of the man who wrote the letter he softened, returned to his room, found the letter which he had crumpled and re-read it many times.
Being filled with the Spirit became his passion and before arriving in India he had concluded that he would not seek to succeed by prowess in language, as he had previously planned, but by the power of the Spirit.
Once in India he came under conviction concerning a besetting sin. He determined to press in to God for complete freedom and it came to him through revelation of 1John 1:9. Deciding that God was faithful he committed himself to God and immediately sensed God’s assurance of freedom.
This transformed him and his friends noticed a glow about him as he told of his experience. This glow was to become a hallmark of his life.
The early years in India were not remarkable as John journeyed from place to place, often sleeping in a tent which he took with him. Unmarried he had no place to call home and later recommended that provision be made for single missionaries to have a home of their own.
He was slow of speech and slow to learn the languages, and was thus threatened with being sent back to the US. He preferred Bible study over his language lessons and protested that he should be a man of the Word. The local people also came to his aid saying, “If he never speaks the language of our lips, he speaks the language of our hearts.”
In his third year in India he received a prayer burden for revival and he interceded continuously for ten years to see it fully come to pass. He saw himself as a Jacob wrestling with God for the blessing.
He loved the Indian people and lived among them. Despite opposition for assisting the low caste people he reached out to them and enjoyed ministry to them. When converts backslid or fell into troubles he would call them to pray with him, then spend up to three hours on his knees with them.
In 1899 John pushed past his physical weakness to spend whole nights in prayer. He would work through the day and pray through the night, confident that revival would come.
During the 1908 Convention God led him to claim one soul per day. By the end of the year he had seen four hundred won to Christ. At the 1909 Convention John challenged the people to not have their own broken hearts but to carry God’s broken heart revealed in them. He pressed for death of the old man, so the new creature could live in Christ. He agonised in prayer for days until he felt God’s assurance that he would win two souls per day to Christ. That year more than eight hundred were won to Christ and baptised.
By the 1910 Convention Hyde was assured that he would lead four people each day to faith. If ever that number was not met on a given John realised that he had fallen behind in praising the Lord. He would step up his praises and the results would come.
“I remember John telling me if on any day four souls were not brought into the fold … at night he could not sleep … (Praying Hyde, by F. McGaw, Moody Press, page 49).
India’s most ardent personal soul winner John was always active in seeking to win people to Christ and baptise them. Often on a train journey he would not get off at his destination if he was engaged in winning a soul. He would then catch a return train after he had baptised his convert. On one occasion he missed his own stop four times, completely missing the event he was intending to attend, but having won four souls through those journeys.
In 1911 John became seriously ill and a Calcutta doctor found his heart had completely moved from the left to the right side of his body. On March 11 he sailed for England and then home to America. While in Wales, staying with a missionary friend on furlough, he prayed with evangelist Dr J Wilbur Chapman, former Moody co-worker, who had preached for fifty years but now found little response. Hyde prayed for a blessing on Chapman’s ministry and that night the hall was packed and fifty men made decisions for Christ.
Back in America he was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour. An operation was attempted by could not be completed. Cancer spread through his body. Then on 17 February, 1912, his face lit up as it had often done before and he cried – in the Indian dialect with which he was so familiar – “Bol, Yisu Nasih, Ki Jai!” which means, “Shout the victory of Jesus Christ!” They were his dying words.
This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.