The Prayer Life of John Hyde









Mag. Claudia R. Wintoch













Spiritual Development I – Prayer & Fasting

Shirley Smith





World Revival School of Ministry

Fall Trimester 2001

1. Introduction


John Hyde (1865–1912) was an extraordinary man of prayer who became known as “Praying Hyde” in India, his mission field, and the world. J. Pengwern Jones says of him that “the Spirit made him an object-lesson to us, that we might have a better idea of what was Christ’s prayer-life.” (Carré 19??:71). John would spend hours and hours with his Lord, forgetting about sleep and food, in the gap for believers and those to be saved. “Oh God, give me souls or I die!” would become one of his most famous prayers. After a time of fruitlessness on the mission field, the Lord started moving, giving John the boldness to at first pray for one person a day getting saved, then two and four. The Sialkot Conventions were started in 1904 and God’s revival power would touch many missionaries’ and indigenous people’s life forever, changing the landscape of spiritual India. When John Hyde died in 1912, his body bearing the marks of his life of prayer, his last words were: “Shout the victory of Jesus Christ”.


2. John’s Early Years


John grew up in a godly home in Illinois, his father being a Presbyterian minister, his mother a very godly woman. John’s father would frequently pray for laborers to be sent into the harvest, and three of their six kids were sent as an answer to that prayer. John’s best friend, his brother Edmund, went to seminary to become a missionary. During a short time mission he contracted a sickness and subsequently died. The loss of his brother had quite an effect on John, so that he wondered whether he shouldn’t take his brother’s place on the mission field. Once he had settled the issue with God, he started breathing and living missions so that over half of his class in seminary went to the mission field. It was during those years that the foundation for John’s prayer life was laid. John graduated in 1992 and only months later he set sail for India, to take his brother’s place.


3. Empowered From On High


On board the ship, John found a letter from a high respected family friend he greatly loved and admired. The letter was short and read: “I shall not cease praying for you, dear John, until you are filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Miller 1943:17). John’s pride was touched and he reacted in anger at the implication that he wasn’t filled with the Holy Spirit. Yet, the conviction grew stronger and after a few days he surrendered:

“At last, in a kind of despair, I asked the Lord to fill me with the Holy Spirit, and the moment I did this, the whole atmosphere seemed to clear up. I began to see myself, and what a selfish ambition I had. […] I was determined […] that whatever would be the cost, I would be really filled with the Spirit. […] I was willing even to fail in my language examinations in India, and be a missionary working quietly out of sight, […] I would do anything and be anything, but the Holy Spirit I would have at any cost.” (Carré 19??:73f).


Shortly after, John was convicted of a sin pattern in his life: “I realized what a dishonor it would be on the Name of Christ to have to confess that I was preaching a Christ that had not delivered me from sin.” (Carré 19??:74) and God delivered him, having made him ready to be His vessel.


4. Driven To God


I am impressed that the one great characteristic of John Hyde was holiness. I do not mention prayerfulness now, for prayer was his lifework. I do not especially call attention to soul-winning, for his power as a soul-winner was due to his Christ-likeness. (McGaw 1970:67)


After a few years of fruitlessness, and discouragement in his language studies due to his hearing impairment, he sent in his resignation. However, the people in his village also sent a letter, saying, “If he never speaks the language of our lips, he speaks the language of our hearts.” (Miller 1943:23) and so he stayed.

John devoted much time to Bible study, and the lack of conversion drove him into prayer, both of which were not received very well by his co-workers. He was “thought to be fanatical and extreme, yet was willing to be called crazy and face this religious opposition.” (Clark 2000).  He realized that the life of the church was far below Bible standards and long before it became popular, he was praying the prayer of Jabez.


5. His Personal Prayer Life


Towards the end of his life, when John was on the way home to America, a friend he stayed with noticed the following:

I could see the flash of the electric light when he got out of bed and turned it on. I watched him do it at twelve and at two and at four, and then at five. From that time the light stayed on till sunrise. By this I knew that in spite of his night watches and illness, he began his day at five. (McGaw 1970:55)


Yet, John would even spend whole days and nights in prayer, so that he was also called “the man who never sleeps”, forgetting about food, as He was engaged with His Lord. Francis McGaw says: “At times I thought Hyde would break down completely. But after nights of prayer and praise he would appear fresh and smiling in the morning.” (37f). The Lord would always sustain His servant, and when asked, he said that he had “scarcely ever felt tired, though he has had at times little sleep for weeks. No man need ever break down through overstrain in this ministry of intercession.” (McGaw 1970:38). However, his body was effected by his ministry of intercession. Towards the end of his life, after days of intense intercession for revival meetings in Shewsbury, England, “he was seriously ill and could scarcely speak, but he smiled and whispered: “The burden of Shewsbury was very heavy, but my Saviour’s burden took Him down to the grave.”” (McGaw 1970:64). McGaw observed:

“It was evident to all that he was bowed down with sore travail of soul. He missed many meals, and when I went to his room I would find him lying as in great agony, or walking up and down as if an inward fire were burning in his bones. (McGaw 1970:39)


Yes, God’s fire was burning in John’s heart. “’Father, give me these souls or I die!’ was the burden of his prayers. His own prayer that he might rather burn out than rust out was already being answered.” (McGaw 1970:43).

Even though John spent much of his time in prayer, he was a very relational person, cheerful and loving, always concerned for others. He would grasp every opportunity to share Jesus with other people. Francis McGaw recounts one incidence:

“As a personal worker he would engage a man in a talk about his salvation. By and by he would have his hands on the man’s shoulders, be looking him very earnestly in the eye. Soon he would get the man on his knees, confessing his sins and seeking salvation. Such a one he would baptize in the village, by the roadside, or anywhere.” (McGaw 1970:46)


John Hyde knew exactly that he had no power in himself and that there was a price to be paid:

“When we keep near to Jesus it is He who draws souls to Himself through us, but He must be lifted up in our lives; that is, we must be crucified with Him. It is self in some shape that comes between us and Him, so self must be dealt with as He was dealt with. Self must be crucified. Then indeed Christ is lifted up in our lives, and He cannot fail to attract souls to Himself. All this is the result of a close union and communion, that is fellowship with Him in His sufferings.” (McGaw 1970:49f.)


John was very sensitive spiritually, aware of his weaknesses and the power of self and the flesh. On one occasion, as he entered God’s presence to pray for revival in an Indian pastor’s life,

he retired to his inner chamber, and thinking of the pastor’s coldness and the consequent deadness of his church, he began to pray: “O Father, though knowest how cold-“ But a finger seemed to be laid on his lips, so that the word was not uttered and a voice said in his ear, “He that toucheth him, toucheth the apple of Mine eye.” Mr. Hyde cried out in sorrow: “Forgive me, Father, in that I have been an accuser of the brethren before Thee!” (McGaw 1970:52)


John’s prayer life inspired many people who had the honor of coming into God’s presence together with him, and changed their lives forever. One man describes this encounter the following way:

“He came to my room, turned the key in the door, dropped on his knees, waited five minutes without a single syllable coming from his lips. I could hear my own heart thumping and beating. I felt the hot tears running down my face. I knew I as with God. Then with upturned face, down which the tears were streaming, he said: “Oh, God!” Then for five minutes at least, he was still again, and then when he knew he was talking with God his arm went around my shoulder and there came up from the depth of his heart such petitions for men as I had never heard before. I rose from my knees to know what real prayer was.” (McGaw 1970:63)



6. The Sialkot Revival


In 1904 the annual Sialkot conventions were started where thousands of lives were touched and transformed. “The victory of the Sialkot meetings was not won in the pulpit but in the closet. Often the glory rested on these meetings in a mighty way, while hidden, out of sight, John Hyde and a faithful few travailed in prayer.” (Smithers). God called him to be a watchman and took him he even deeper into intercession for the church and the lost. John started praying for one person to get saved a day, then two and four.

“In those days if on any day four souls were not brought into the fold, at night there would be such a weight on his heart that it was positively painful, and he could not eat nor sleep. Then in prayer he would ask his Lord to show him what was the obstacle in him to his blessing. He invariably found that it was the want of praise in his life… and as he praised God souls would come to him, and the numbers lacking would be made up. (McGaw 1970:53f)

John knew the power of praise, thanksgiving and joy. He was often filled with holy laughter, and danced and shouted before His God. He truly knew the depths and heights of communion with God, paying the price for the salvation of many. In 1911 he had to leave India because his heart had become weak and had moved to the right side. Yet, even on this last journey, his prayers and intercession touched and changed many lives before he went on to be with Jesus at the early age of 47.

Right on his face on the ground is Praying Hyde. This was his favorite attitude for prayer. Listen! he is praying; he utters a petition, and then waits; in a little time he repeats it, and then waits; and this many times until we feel that that petition has penetrated every fibre of our being and we feel assured that God has heard and without doubt He will answer. […] How effectual it was to hear him address God, “O Father, Father!” (McGaw 1970:64f)



7. References


Carré, E.G., Praying Hyde, Pickering & Inglis: London 19??


Clark, Jonas, Praying John Hyde. Apostle to India,, 2000


John Hyde,


John N. Hyde,


McGaw, Francis, John Hyde, Bethany House Publishers: Minneapolis, MN, 1923 [1970]


Miller, Basil, Praying Hyde, Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI, 1897 [1943]


Smithers, David, John Hyde. Prayer Makes History,