Dwight L. Moody: A Life Steeped in Prayer, Preaching and Service

“I’d rather be able to pray than to be a great preacher; Jesus Christ never taught his disciples how to preach, but only how to pray.”

Dwight L. Moody was absolutely one of the greatest preachers of his time but that was as the result of hours of prayers. Dwight L. Moody once said that every great movement of God can be traced to a kneeling figure. This insightful reference lays a profound foundation for understanding the immense influence he wielded throughout his lifetime. As a herald of the gospel and a stalwart of faith, Moody’s life was deeply characterized by an unyielding reliance on prayer which became his guide for living out a life characterized by seeking the will of God totally.

Dwight was Born in 1837 to Edwin and Betsey Moody in Northfield, Massachusetts. When Dwight was just four years old, his father passed away, leaving his mother to care for her nine children by herself. Dwight barely completed the fifth grade due to her struggles to support her children’s education. D.L. Moody relocated to Boston to work at his uncle’s shoe company when he was 17. Moody wasn’t particularly a Christian even though he grew up in a Christian home, it wasn’t until he was 18 that he became a Christian when his Sunday school teacher preached to him. Moody immediately began to share his newfound faith with others. He started a Sunday school class in his hometown, and he soon became involved in evangelistic work. In 1860, he moved to Chicago, where he became a full-time evangelist.

In Chicago, Moody embarked on ventures that beamed his love for humanity and served as an amplification of his robust faith’s resonance in service to his community. He was deeply involved in the YMCA because of all their social work. This led him to soon establish a Sunday school class in the inner city of Chicago with the intent of reaching less fortunate, uneducated children. This mission eventually became a full-fledged church, and Moody continued with both evangelism and social work, drawing children of immigrant families to Sunday school with candy and pony rides.

During the terrible Civil War, without actual military involvement, he served the soldiers at Camp Douglas, the base for the 72nd Illinois Volunteer Regiment. Over the course of the war, Moody travelled to battlefields throughout the state and the country, ministering to both Union and Confederate soldiers.

“I look upon this world as a wrecked vessel. God has given me a lifeboat and said, ‘Moody, save all you can.’”

This was the heart of Moody’s evangelistic efforts. He wanted to save as much as he could as he transited through this life. Moody was revolutionary in his evangelistic approach. In 1870, he heard Ira Sankey sing at a YMCA convention, and he convinced Sankey to give up a well-paying government career to join him on the sawdust trail. Moody intersected the power of music with his evangelistic efforts and reaped a harvest.

In the spring of 1872, Moody went on a trip to the United Kingdom and it was during that trip he became a well-known evangelist. Despite conflicting counsel from friends and trusted contacts, he and Sankey travelled to Ireland during a time when Catholics and Protestants were constantly at odds with each other. Moody was different: he did not care what denomination a person claimed but just wanted the message of Christ to be heard. As a result, the revival swept into Ireland, and he won the praises of both Catholics and Protestants.

His success in the United Kingdom paved the way for his nationwide reputation when he returned to America in 1875. The foundation-laying years of prayer, and fiery passion for souls, coupled with his musical collaboration with Sankey started the era known as the Moody-Sankey revivals. The massive campaign kicked its start in Pennsylvania with over fifteen thousand attendants, extending at times to meetings that accommodated up to twenty thousand participants.

Prayer and Bible study marked Moody’s ministry. He famously said, “In our prayers, we talk to God, in our Bible study, God talks to us, and we had better let God do most of the talking.” Dwight Moody was a student of the Bible and this was the reason behind the success of his ministry. Moody is known as a man of great faith which he attributes to the study of the word of God.

“I prayed for Faith, and thought that some day Faith would come down and strike me like lightning. But Faith did not seem to come. One day I read in the tenth chapter of Romans, ‘Now Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God’. I had closed my Bible, and prayed for Faith. I now opened my Bible, and began to study, and Faith has been growing ever since.”

In his productive life, Dwight L. Moody substantially contributed to various projects and developed revered institutions, significantly influencing both the United States and the religious world at large.

The Chicago Evangelization Society (now Moody Bible Institute) was established in 1886 intending to gather aspiring ministers, missionaries, and evangelists for quality Biblical education no matter the cultural or ethnic diversity. Northfield Schools was established by Moody because he had strong beliefs in providing universal education. He established the Northfield Seminary for Young Ladies in 1879 and the Mount Hermon School for Boys in 1881. He offered rigorous co-educational environments with a Christian undertone where academic and character growth was emphasized.

Following this blessed service to God and humanity, Moody’s life came to an end on December 22, 1899. But his impact reverberates on, perpetuating God’s will among believers and Church communities worldwide. Thousands gathered in Northfield, Massachusetts, to pay homage to the invincible faith warrior he was.

D. L. Moody left an enduring legacy through his Ministry and his profound motivational words, which have encouraged, taught, raised, and spiritually matured countless Christian believers over numerous generations, directly and indirectly. He is fondly remembered for his passionate expressions about his faith journeys and his sincere heart inclined entirely to living as per the will of God. His life, work, and testimonies offer continued instructions on what it means to truly reside under God’s authority and confidently walk in faith.






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