Heroes of the Faith: John Hyde of India

This man of prayer was Elijah-like! He talked to God.

The late Frank Knox (Belfast, N.I.), after his long life of devoted service to the best of Masters, said tersely, “If I had my life to live over again I would do more praying and less preaching.” In our present day, sad to say, we have few prayers, less weepers, and no groaners! It is tragic that prayer meetings are relegated in our modern Christianity to a secondary place. May we put ourselves on pause and reflect on history and learn that God’s ways are best. We need a return to the bended knees, the up-lifted hands, and the broken heart. The following tribute to a man known as “praying Hyde” could affect many, some, or one! All that is needed is ONE!

This unsung hero of faith, John Hyde, was born in November of 1865, and departed to his heavenly home in February of 1912. This man of prayer was Elijah-like! He talked to God. He listened to God! He pleaded with God! He wept before God! He stayed literally for hours until he got answers from God! This man had his Gethsemane experiences, wrestling, weeping, waiting, alone with His Master. Moses-like, his countenance shone unknown to him. He was like the conquering eagle, soaring into the heavenly sanctuary, intimate with His God as he lived in another world, the heavenly! His spiritual hunger had swallowed up his physical appetite and desire! One day a missionary was talking to a young Hindu who had become acquainted with Mr. Hyde. The Hindu said, “Do you know, sir, that Mr. Hyde seems to me like God.” In this he was not far from the truth. We are geared in our thinking to judge by activity! By success! By how many homes we visit! How many contacts we make during the day! We discipline ourselves to fulfill our duties and perform our responsibilities. These are good qualities and needful, and we would never minimize this but encourage their importance. But have we not learned that the greatest weapon in our entire spiritual arsenal is the unparalleled weapon of prayer? It is powerful, potent, and foundational to all service. Godly Hyde lived with God and visited men. His temporary abode was here but his permanent abode was in heaven. The Aramaic translation of Psalm 91:1 is excellent: “He that chooses as his permanent abode the sacred place of the Most High shall always be in touch with the Almightiness of God.” The intercessions of this spiritual giant are worthy of our attention.

Hyde the Intercessor

Many a revival in India can be traced back to “praying Hyde” and many a preacher was touched and changed by being in contact with such a prayer warrior. Dr. Chapman, a great evangelist, said that it was a season of prayer with Mr. Hyde that left an indelible imprint upon his soul as to the necessity of this mighty weapon of prayer. He climaxed his remarks by saying, “I owe more to praying Hyde than to any man, as I understood what a real consecrated life is.” Hundreds in India could attest to the same. In the early church some were blessed by Peter’s shadow in a literal way and almost a century ago some were spiritually touched and changed in the shadow of praying Hyde. This kind of vessel is worth more than a thousand active servants who fail in the art of prayer. Let the younger generation read carefully the works of the late E. M. Bounds on the subject of prayer. Titles such as the “Power of Prayer,” “Possibilities of Prayer,” and “The Pursuit of Prayer,” if read carefully, could make us feel like pygmies in this needful and vital realm. Let us remind our readers, that this is not written for some supposedly “super-believers,” but for all believers. Prayer should be our native air! It may be hard work, but it is heart work! It may be a deep sigh! But the sweetness of communion with God is the greatest of all service this side of glory. Praying Hyde was always laboring in prayer! Maybe this is why so many neglect this spiritual activity, the cost of LABOR! His motto could be well summed up in the words of Psalm 77:13: “Thy way O God is in the sanctuary.”

His life was molded under the roof of a praying father. His father was a man of vision and passion. With the spiritual telescope to his eye, he prayed for laborers to be thrust out into the vast harvest field. Young John met the Master and a life-transforming change took place.

It has been recorded that John Hyde could have reached for the sky academically, but instead he reached for spiritual heights, the dwelling place of God. Across the horizon of his soul there swept the compelling need for the lost from America to India. He had a crisis in life where he labored before God as to his path and a great battle ensued as to embarking as a missionary to India. When he got the answer from God, the battle was won and he became “a surrendered servant” to the will of his Lord.

Praying Hyde, the soul-winner

What motivated this warrior of the Cross was his deep love for Christ. Indeed, he recorded that he promised the Lord he would not share his affection with another, and gave ALL to Christ. What devotion! His love for the souls of the perishing was deep and real. He saw men wearing his clothes, which had been stolen from him, but he never called them to account lest they would be driven away from Christ. Fellow-missionaries misunderstood him. He was so Christ-like that someone was sent to watch for his faults to publish them and break his influence over the people. Under pretense of being an enquirer after the Christian religion, a man was welcomed to stay with Mr. Hyde. After fours days he ran away and confessed, “He has no fault; he is like God.” When he was deceived and robbed, he prayed for those who had wronged him. Through love he wooed and won converts to Christ. It was not uncommon for this noble servant to take off his coat and give it to a needy native. It was his self-sacrifice that won for him a way into the Indian heart. How could they turn away from such a man’s Savior? Before a great revival in Calcutta, praying Hyde spent thirty days and nights in prayer! This is almost unbelievable! But it happened! God opened the windows of heaven and poured out everlasting blessing!

He was known in his sleepless nights to plead with the Almighty. Shaken with sobs he cried, “O God, give me souls or I die!” One favorite text, “Look on the fields…. They are white…. the laborers are few…………. PRAY!” Is there not a lesson in this brief meditation? We are in danger of deserted prayer closets! Formal prayer meetings! Parrot prayers! But praying in the Holy Spirit, sometimes with groanings that cannot be uttered – is this a lost art? That love consistently was manifested, and when confined to bed or in a wheelchair, he continued in holy intercession. His love for India never wavered. One has recorded, “He went a long way into the suffering of India, and had desperate encounters with her foes, but God gave him wonderful vision and victory!”

Hyde, the sanctified Warrior

What give such success to this remarkable man? There could be a number of answers to this question. One avenue he followed with relentless pursuit was “holiness.” What was said by the great woman to her husband concerning Elisha, “Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God,” is true of John Hyde. “There is no power in the world so irrepressible as the power of personal holiness.” While it may seem blunt, it is nonetheless true: “Self must not only be dead but buried out of sight, for the stench of the unburied self-life will frighten souls away from Jesus.” Praying Hyde sought practical and daily sanctification that he might be that vessel unto honor. Witnesses are many to the saintliness of this beloved servant of Jesus Christ. We trust this will be a timely message to all who read. There is a great danger that we could have the external activities with dead formality, but the heart far removed from a devoted and holy life, and this is a tragedy! May this stir up our affection to Christ to holy living and to increased prayer-life.

Praying Hyde had nineteen fruitful years in India. After a stay in England he arrived in New York in 1911, and in 1912 God called him home. His last words as he was about to enter the heavenly portals have re-echoed throughout India, “Bo, Yisu Masih, Ki Jai” which is “Shout the victory of Jesus Christ.” He was buried in Carthage, Illinois, where the funeral service was conducted from the same pulpit where he answered, as a young man, the call of God through his father’s challenging message and pleading prayer to send workers to the ripened harvest – John Hyde was the answer to that prayer! One of his classmates wrote: “No saint of the Church was ever beyond him in holiness. He verily gave his life for India.”