When People Pray: Trusting God Enough to Kill Your Oxen

Day 1 of 4 • This day’s reading


When People Pray: Trusting God Enough to Kill Your Oxen

In September 1853, a small three-masted ship quietly slipped out of the harbor in Liverpool with a wide-eyed 21-year-old aboard. The ship and its crew set their course for a foreign land that was just coming into the Christian West’s awareness.  At the time, there were only a handful of missionaries who dared to venture to the far away land where difficulty was promised, food was strange, and the language and culture had proven to be more than challenging.

Just twenty years before there had had been a young Methodist couple, James and Amelia Taylor, who were so passionate about the advancement of the Kingdom of God to the unknown Far East that they had regularly prayed that their newborn son might be raised up for that purpose. They had often been heard praying, “Grant that he may work for you (God) in China.”

Years later, the teenage Hudson Taylor experienced God in such a powerful way that the only words he could muster to describe his calling during his intense time of prayer was, “before Him with unspeakable awe and unspeakable joy.” Following this ‘unspeakable’ experience, Hudson submitted himself to preparation learning medicine, studying Mandarin, and immersing himself deeper and deeper into the Bible and prayer.

When the 21-year-old Hudson arrived in Shanghai, he immediately made a decision to dress in Chinese clothes and grow a traditional Chinese pigtail, it was a decision that went against the grain of most Protestant missionaries of the day.  But Hudson was constantly remembering his ‘unspeakable’ experience. He was driven by his time of daily prayer to push forward, trusting in God’s plan, and believing that his work for the advancement of the Kingdom mattered more than the approval of his Protestant colleagues. 

In 1857, he became seriously ill (probably hepatitis) and he was forced to return to England to recover. His passion never wavered as he continued to work on translating the Bible into Chinese. As his recovery continued, Hudson was also inspired to begin a special organization (China Inland Mission) whose vision would be to evangelize the interior of China. While he recruited missionaries to join him, he was often overcome with worry and doubt for their future safety in the unprotected interior of the vast Far East.  Even still, within a year they returned to China. Hudson and his wife with their four children along with CIM’s 24 new missionaries increased the total number of China missionaries by 25 percent. 

The work did not become easier, but Hudson continued to answer the call he had received so many years before in his teenage moment of outstretched prayer. Ministry was rigorous but under his leadership, CIM continued to grow its force, by 1876 there were 52 missionaries and then in November 1876 he announced that 102 more recruits would be added to the CIM team. In the midst of all of his speaking engagements and ministry opportunities, he battled depression and he was riddled with stress. Hudson is known for saying, even in the darkest times, “When I cannot read, when I cannot think, when I cannot even pray, I can trust.”