The Power of Prayer in the Conversion of Souls

James Hudson Taylor in 1865

A Heritage of Faith
James Hudson Taylor was born in 1832 and died when the Welsh Revival of 1904 was one year old.

His story is one of prayer, or perseverance, of faith and of suffering. His story is one of radical obedience to Christ’s Commission to take the gospel to the world.

Hudson Taylor was a Yorkshireman, born in Barnsley. He was the son of evangelical Methodists and his family enjoyed the privilege of having hosted John Wesley, the great Methodist Evangelist, in 1786.

The story of his great grandparents looking after Wesley and then hearing him preach to a great congregation had been told and retold many times.

HT’s father was fascinated with China. He was a highly respected Chemist who also treated patients in a consulting room behind the store. But the passion he instilled into his children was centred on China. He had actually prayed, ‘Lord, if you give us a son, grant that he may work for You in China!’

His prayer was answered spectacularly.

A teenager’s apathy and a mother’s love
As a ‘teenager’ HT began to question the faith of his family. He wasn’t so sure that the daily Bible readings which his father led, were so necessary. He began to be sceptical.

But his mother began to pray, fervently and passionately.

One day in June 1849, the bored 17yr old began looking around for something to read. He casually looked through his father’s bookshelves when a tract caught his eye.

He knew what it was, and decided that he’d read the story part (which he assumed would be at the beginning of the tract) and skim read over the ‘moral of the story’ and probably a mini sermon at the end.

What he didn’t know was that his mother had also found herself at a loose end while she was in another town, and began praying fervently for his conversion. She began to get a conviction in prayer that she should pray on until she knew she had the answer from God.

In Praise of Tracts!
‘Let me tell you how God answered the prayers of my dear mother for my conversion!’ Hudson wrote in his book ‘Retrospect’

‘In the afternoon I looked through my father’s library to find some book with which to while away the unoccupied hours. Nothing attracting me, I turned over a little basket of pamphlets and selected from among them a Gospel tract which looked interesting, saying to myself, ‘There will be a story at the beginning , and a sermon or moral at the close: I will take the former and leave the latter for those who like it.’

I sat down to read the little book in an utterly unconcerned state of mind, believing indeed that I there were any salvation it was not for me…’

Little did I know at the same time what was going on in the heart of my dear mother, seventy or eighty miles away.

The Power of Prayer
She [had] an intense yearning for the conversion of her boy…She went to her room and turned the key in the door, resolved not to leave that spot until her prayers were answered.

Hour after hour did that dear mother plead for me, until at length she could pray no longer, but was constrained to praise God for that which His Spirit taught her had already been accomplished – the conversion of her only son.

I, in the meantime, while reading the tract, was struck with the sentence ‘the finished work of Christ.’

Why does the author use this expression? Why not say ‘the atoning work of Christ’?

Immediately the words, ‘It is finished!’ suggested themselves to my mind [these were words spoken by Jesus when he was on the cross – John 19:30]. What was finished?

And I at once replied: ‘A full and perfect atonement and satisfaction for sin: the debt was paid…Christ died for our sins!’

Then came the thought, ‘If the whole work was finished and the whole debt paid, what is there left for me to do?’

The finished work of Christ applied by the Holy Spirit
And with this dawned the joyful conviction, as light was flashed into my soul by the Holy Spirit, that there was nothing in the world to be done but to fall down on one’s knees, and accepting this Saviour and His salvation, to praise Him forever more!

Thus while my dear mother was praising God on her knees in her chamber, I was praising Him in the old warehouse to which I had gone alone to read this little book at my leisure.

When our dear mother came home a fortnight later, I was the first to meet her at the door, and to tell her I had such glad news to give.

I can almost feel that dear mother’s arms around my neck, as she pressed me to her bosom and said, ‘I know, my boy; I have been rejoicing for a fortnight in the glad tidings you have to tell me!’

My mother assured me that it was not from any human source that she had learned the tidings…

You will agree with me that it would be strange indeed if I were not a believer in the power of prayer.’[i]

To read the first part of the Hudson Taylor Story click here

To read the next part of the Hudson Taylor Story, the first steps towards the mission in China, click here

Personal Tracts

Tracts can still be incredibly powerful – and you don’t have to purchase an old fashioned one with dull graphics. You can easily write your own. Click here for more details.

© 2011 Church History / Lex Loizides


[i] From To China with Love, Hudson Taylor, Bethany House, p.10-13

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