By Randi Peck
Hudson Taylor: A Life Shaped by Prayer
In the year 1832, in the town of Yorkshire, England, a young chemist and his wife prayed. In the quiet of their home, James and Amelia Taylor dedicated their newborn son to the Lord, asking that their little Hudson would believe upon Christ and follow God’s path for his life. They also prayed that that path might, perhaps, lead him to China to share the gospel.
Fifteen years later, Hudson Taylor seemed to contradict every one of his parents’ secret prayers. He had rejected his their faith, adapting the skeptic, hedonistic views of his peers. His father and mother, however, believed in the power of God to reach their son with the truth.
One particular evening, Amelia Taylor was away on holiday and felt a strong nudge to seek the soul of her wayward son, on her knees. She locked herself up in her bedroom for hours, resolving to intercede on Hudson’s behalf until she felt certain his soul was in God’s hands.
Miles away, Hudson found himself alone at home. Looking for a way to entertain the evening, he wandered into his father’s library and stumbled across a gospel tract. He began to scan through the pages, solely with the intention of passing the time and going on his way. Then he came across a phrase he could not ignore: the finished work of Christ. He recounts what took place next:
“What was finished? And I at once replied, ‘A full and perfect atonement and satisfaction for sin: the debt was paid by the Substitute; Christ died for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.’
Then came the thought, ‘If the whole work was finished and the whole debt paid, what is there left for me to do?’
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 for evermore.”
Days passed, and Hudson’s mother returned from her trip. Hudson could hardly contain his good news, as she walked through the door. But as he opened his mouth to share of his conversion, she announced, “I know, my boy; I have been rejoicing for a fortnight in the glad tidings you have to tell me.”
For while Hudson had had been praising God for the very first time, in his father’s library, his mother had simultaneously begun her rejoicing in a neighboring city, assured in the Spirit that her son now belonged to Christ.
There was no turning back for Hudson Taylor, after this powerful experience. His appetite for the world had been replaced with a deep longing to see others saved. He began to feel God’s calling to someday minister to the unsaved people of China. And while he gladly submitted to this call, he knew that his mission into a foreign culture would require strength beyond his own.
While he attended medical school, a trade he would use on the mission field, he also prepared for the spiritual tests that awaited him. To strengthen his faith, he decided to stop asking anyone other than the Lord for his needs. His prayer life became a test, not of God’s faithfulness, but of his own readiness to lean fully on the Lord. Often, Hudson found himself unsure how he would pay rent or even secure his next meal- but as he pressed into prayer, he was never disappointed.
Prayer continued to be a necessary part of Hudson’s daily life as he ultimately sailed to China, at the age of twenty-one, to begin his missionary work. He found himself in constant conversation with the Lord, usually interceding for the tragically lost and often hostile people he sought to minister to.
But Hudson developed his greatest conviction for prayer six years into his mission, when sickness forced him to return to England. For as his heart still yearned to be with the people he now considered his own, he attested that, “Prayer was often the only resource by which the burdened heart could gain any relief”. Despite his inability to be there, Hudson prayed fervently and faithfully that the Lord would call more men to labor over the harvest in China.
Hudson Taylor spent the next six years organizing prayer meetings, writing a book, and speaking at events, all in order to stir up the English to a love for the Chinese. He even refused financial donations, from one congregation, in order that the hearers would not relieve their consciences so quickly- that they themselves would go home, fall on their knees, and ask God how they might cover this need.
In 1865, Hudson’s frustration over why God had orchestrated his return to England was in some measure appeased. For the China Inland Mission was born- an organization which would have never been possible without his time in Europe.
Hudson and his family would return to China the following year, meanwhile the labor of his prayers continued to reveal a powerful harvest. By the turn of the century, the China Inland Mission had sent 811 missionaries and staffed 581 natives. They had also organized 266 churches, 6 hospitals, and 46 opium refuges. Most significantly, they had witnessed countless souls find eternal life!
Hudson Taylor would continue pouring out the remainder of his life into reaching the Chinese people with the gospel. Now considered the father of the Chinese-Christian mission, Hudson’s life serves as a portrait of a powerful God, who started moving through the prayers of his parents before Hudson was even born. And who continues to work through prayer, even to this day, as his mission organization continues to serve China over 150 years later.