Many Christians admire and wish to emulate great revivalists like Charles Finney and Dwight Moody.
This is a noble ambition, however, few recognise that behind powerful revivals are little-known intercessors who have prayed behind the scenes, sacrificially, for hours and days.
This point was highlighted by the late Frederick Julius Huegel, in his book The Ministry of Intercession, who illustrates this by narrating the life experiences of John Hyde (who became known as “Praying Hyde” in India), Charles Finney, and Dwight Moody:
As a young man, fresh from seminary, [John Hyde] left home to take ship to India. On board, in his stateroom, he found a letter from one of the elders of the church of which his father was pastor. The letter contained a challenge, a question! Had John received the fullness of the Spirit for his ministry? Or was he trusting in his talents, his theological training? John became angry and threw the letter into the wastepaper basket. He stomped angrily out on the ship’s deck. He did not like this intimation that he was not really prepared for his task. But the journey, as it was made in those days, was long, and so John had plenty of time to think it over. He reread the letter and decided to seek the Lord for an infilling of His Spirit. The result was a might baptism of power from on high. John decided that his ministry would be one of intercession.
He knew that he would be misunderstood, but he stuck to his purpose. The history of Hyde’s ministry in India is one of the most stirring accounts of ministry activities in all the annals of Christian missions. Before the Siolkot Convention (a large gathering of missionaries and pastors from all parts of India), John spent thirty days and nights in ceaseless intercession. He groaned with groanings which could not be uttered. He barely ate and slept. Ah, but the result was a glorious outpouring of the blessed Spirit of God upon pastors and missionaries, the beginning of a blessed time of revival in churches all over the land.
It was a time of great quickening, a surging of new life from heaven, and joy unspeakable. The Punjab Prayer Union was formed, as many others were drawn to the ministry of intercession. But it cost John Hyde his life. After some years, Praying Hyde returned to his home in Indiana to die. The attending physician found John’s heart clear out of place. Such intercessions as John was wont to take heavy toll from the physical frame.
The story of the great revival that shook America in the days of Charles Finney is well known. May pastors sigh sorrowfully and say, “Oh, for revival as in the days of the great Finney.” But there was an unsung hero behind all this. It was Father Nash. Three weeks before the arrival of the revivalist, Father Nash would go to the towns and cities where Finney was booked to visit. There he would give himself to ceaseless intercession. Little wonder that the heavens were opened as Finney preached and that multitudes were brought to Christ.
A similar circumstance occurred in the days of the great Dwight Moody. The church as large owes a great debt to this apostle of evangelism. The story of those glorious days is well known. Not so well known is the story of the two women who ceased not to intercede for Moody when he was the pastor of a church which he had formed in a humble colony of Chicago, made up largely of urchins which he had gathered from the streets of the colony. It irked Moody that these two women should be praying so constantly for him. He felt that they should intercede for their pastor. The answer came on a day when Moody was walking on the streets of New York. He hastened to his room at the hotel and on his knees cried out, saying: “Lord, withhold your hand or I shall die of joy.”
He soon became a world figure. He was no longer an unknown preacher in a humble colony of Chicago. He was now an apostle who shook the country and on two continents led thousands to Christ.
What did it? The intercessions of two humble women who, as it were, besieged the throne of grace until their pastor was endued with power from on high.