Hudson Taylor: Praying and working

Posted in Blog, Hudson Taylor

James Hudson Taylor (1832–1905) founded the China Inland Mission (now OMF International). Having studied and trained in medicine at the London hospital in Whitechapel, he responded to God’s call to be a missionary in 1849 and sailed for China in 1853 at the age of twenty-one. Despite many obstacles, among them ill-health which forced him to return in 1860, he carried on his work for China where he travelled extensively, heroically facing many difficulties, and conforming as much as possible to Chinese habits of life. A man of indomitable faith and great personal devotion, he carried his missionary work into the heart of China and ensured its continuance by recruiting a large number of helpers.

His life as a Christian began in answer to his mother’s and sister’s specific prayers. His response to God’s call to serve him in China was itself an answer to a prayer offered by his parents before his birth. It’s not surprising therefor that his own life was characterised by prayer. One missionary with whom he travelled in the summer of 1878 never forgot his habit of praying for the mission three times a day, mentioning each of his colleagues by name.

His son Howard noticed that his father ‘prayed about things as if everything depended on the praying … but worked also, as if everything depended on the working.’ A classic example of this occurred in 1870 during one of Taylor’s spells in England. On 31 December the China Inland Mission observed a day of prayer at the mission’s headquarters in Pyrland Road, Stoke Newington, in north London. It was a time when many children were suffering seriously from what the Victorians called ‘spasmodic croup’ (an inflammation of the larynx and trachea). During the evening session, a nurse appeared at the door with a child she thought had died. They called Taylor who rushed to the back of the room. As he ran, a woman suggested that he should pray. ‘Yes, pray,’ he shouted back, ‘while I work!’

Taylor found that the small girl was blue and limp. His first attempt to revive her failed. Then he tried the kiss of life. After several minutes, the child’s colour changed and she began to breathe. In the night she had occasional convulsions but survived without harm and grew up to become a missionary in China.