How the Innermost Secret of the Prayer-life was Revealed
(From the book “Praying Hyde” pgs.’ 70-75)
I said in the last memoir that my contact with Mr. Hyde was one of the greatest blessings of my life; perhaps I should put it in the present tense, and say that it is the greatest blessing, for I feel that the blessing lasts, which shows that it was the Holy Spirit that used His beloved servant and made him a blessing not only to me, but to hundreds of others, men and women, Indians, Europeans, Americans, Christians and non-Christians. The Spirit made him an object-lesson to us, that we might have a better idea of what was Christ’s prayer-life. I hope and pray that these few imperfect reminiscences may be used of the Holy Spirit to reveal to others what is the “life of prayer,” that we are called upon to enter into in these days.
Naturally, I was interested and desired to know how brother Hyde had entered in to this life, what had led him to consecrate his life so absolutely to the Lord, and how he had been taught the secret of this prayer-life. It was very difficult to get him to speak about himself, but I think he understood that it was not mere curiosity that prompted the inquiry. How I wish I could describe this event as he related it. Can I give it in his own words? It was something like this:
“My father was a minister – a Presbyterian minister – and my mother a very devoted Christian with a beautiful voice which had been consecrated to the Lord. I determined when I was a youth to be a missionary, and a ‘good missionary.’ I wanted to shine as a great missionary. I passed through college and did very well. I graduated, and was a little proud of the ‘B.A.’ after my name. I was determined to master the Indian languages that I would have to learn, and I resolved not to let anything stand in the way that would hinder my becoming a great missionary. That was my ambition. This was not altogether perhaps of the flesh, but most of it was. I loved the Lord and I wanted to serve Him, and serve Him well, but ‘self’ was at the foundation of my ambition.
“My father had a dear friend – a brother minister – who had a deep desire to become a missionary, but his desire was not fulfilled. He was greatly interested in me, and was delighted that the son of his great friend was going out as a missionary. He loved me and I loved him and greatly admired him.
“When I got on board the steamer at New York, bound for India for my life work, I found in my cabin a letter addressed to me. It was in the handwriting of my father’s friend. I opened it and read it. The words were not many, but the purport of them was this: ‘I shall not cease praying for you, dear John, until you are filled with the Holy Spirit.’ My pride was touched, and I felt exceedingly angry, and crushed the letter and threw it into a corner of the cabin and went up on deck in a very angry spirit. The idea of implying that I was not filled with the Spirit! I was going out as a missionary, and I was determined to be a good missionary, and yet this man implied that I was not fitted and equipped for the work! I paced up and down that deck, a battle raging within. I felt very uncomfortable; I loved the writer, I knew the holy life he led, and down in my heart there was a conviction that he was right and that I was not fit to be a missionary. I went back after some time to my cabin and down on my knees to hunt for the crushed letter. Finding it, I smoothed it out, and read it again and again. I still felt annoyed, but the conviction was gaining on me that my father’s friend was right and I was wrong.
“This went on for two or three days until I felt perfectly miserable. This was the goodness of the Lord answering the prayers of my father’s friend, who must have claimed a victory for me. 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. It was a struggle almost to the end the voyage, but I was determined long before the port was reached, that whatever would be the cost, I would be really filled with the Spirit. The second climax came when I was led to tell the Lord that I was willing even to fail in my language examinations in India, and be a missionary working quietly out of sight, that I would do anything and be anything, but the Holy Spirit I would have at any cost.
“On one of the first few days spent in India, while I was staying with another missionary, a brother of some experience, I went out with him to an open-air service. The missionary spoke, and I was told that he was speaking about Jesus Christ as the real Saviour from sin. When he had finished his address, a respectable-looking man, speaking good English, asked the missionary whether he himself had been thus saved. The question went home to my heart; for if the question had been asked me, I would have had to confess that Christ had not fully saved me, because I knew that there was a sin in my life which had not been taken away. I realised what a dishonour 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, though I would be proclaiming to others that He was a perfect Saviour.
“I went back to my room and shut myself in, and told the Lord that it must be one of two things: either he must give me victory over all my sins, and especially over the sin that so easily beset me, or I must return to America, and seek there for some other work. I said that I could not stand up to preach the Gospel until I could testify of its power in my own life. I was there for some time, facing the question, realising how reasonable it was, until the Lord assured me that he was able and willing to deliver me from all sin, that he had planned work for me in India. He did deliver me, and I have not had a doubt of this since. I can now stand up without hesitation to testify that he has given me victory, and I love to witness to and to tell all of the wonderful faithfulness of Christ my Lord, my Saviour.”
As far as I can remember, it was in some such words that Hyde gave me his experience. Can I ever forget his face as he told me these things, that inexpressibly sad look when he spoke of his sin, and that wonderful smile of his when he referred to the faithfulness of Christ?