Acts America

New Covenant Youth Ministry

Holy Ann

“Poor Ann, she can never learn anything!” exclaimed the school teacher in a despairing way. The small girl had been in the class just one week, but found the ABC's so difficult to master. The conclusion was reached that effort on such a dull child was utterly wasted. So, she was summarily dismissed to return to her humble Irish cottage, with its thatched roof, in Ballamacally, Country Armagh, Ireland. And yet, in mature years, Ann came to be known for her wide knowledge if the Bible and a record of answers to her simple prayers of faith that silenced the most faithless and unbelieving cavilers.

Religion was unheeded in the home into which she was born in the year 1810. The six children who came to James Preston and his wife were forced to seek employment as soon as they were able. Since Ann could not imbibe even the simplest principles of education, she was hired out for infant caring or cattle herding, for the most part, in families of the God-forgetting. Finally, she was taken into a Christian home where the mistress was concerned about the spiritual welfare of all who came under her roof. At her invitation, the servant girl attended a Methodist class meeting where some of the members were weeping because of their sins, while others were praising God for saving grace.

To Ann's mind, so completely ignorant of anything spiritual, this gathering was repellent. However, she consented to go to a Methodist service in a private home the following Sunday. The text of the minister was that command of our Savior, “Thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” That evening, hardly knowing why, she resorted to a small attic room and, kneeling by the only chair there, broke out into loud crying. Her mistress, suspecting the trouble, ascended the stairs with the question, “What is the matter, Ann?” “I don't know,” was the response. However, it was quickly followed by the confession, “Yes, I do. I see the sins I did from the time I was five years old, all written on the chair in front of me, every one. Worse than all, I see Hell open ready to swallow me.”

In the great agitation of her soul, now awakened to its true state before God, she retired to her own room where, until midnight, she continued to cry out to Him for mercy. Then, as the question, “No mercy, Lord, for me?” passed her lips, divine assurance was given her that through the blood of Jesus, her sins were washed away.

She picked up a New Testament lying on the table and, placing her finger on a verse, prayed, “Father, You Who have taken away from me this awful burden, couldn't You help me read one of these little things?” And a miracle was wrought! Ann was able to read at least part of the verse, “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst.”

And eventually, she who had been condemned by her childhood teacher to lifelong ignorance, was given the ability to read the Word of God. However, for reasons known only to our Heavenly Father, He never opened the door of her mind to secular reading matter. One family for whom Ann worked, refused to believe that such an unusual situation could exist. To test her veracity, they placed a news paper in front of her, asking her to read a certain paragraph. She made no progress, until the word “lord” arrested her attention. Then she exclaimed, “It seems to me this word 'lord,' but it can't be my Lord, for my heart does not burn while I read it.” Lord Roberts, who figured prominently in the South African War, was the gentleman about whom the article was written.

In the course of time, Ann was employed in the home of a Dr. Reid whose wife was a Christian. When the family decided to move to Canada, she was invited to accompany them. Much to the grief of her parents, she consented. After a journey of two months, the Reids, together with Ann, settled in Thornhill, Ontario, not far from the city of Toronto.

With all the changes she had undergone, the religious life of the Irish servant girl seemed almost to have come to a standstill, although she still professed to be a Christian. Mrs. Phoebe Palmer, outstanding for her advocacy of the doctrine of holiness, was, for a time, leader of the class meeting in the Methodist Church at Thornhill. Ann reluctantly yielded to Mrs. Reid's persuasion to accompany her to the service.

She had been with the Reid family for about ten years when the wife and mother suddenly passed away. The family of young children was left to Ann's care and she was faithful to her trust until they reached maturity and left the home nest.

Neither Dr. Reid nor Ann had attained to any great degree of stability in the Christian life. She, to her sorrow, frequently gave way to violent outbursts of temper when the children tried her patience. Dr. Reid's inconsistency with the profession of religion he maintained annoyed Ann greatly at times. On occasion, in family prayers, she placed her fingers in her ears to avoid hearing his voice. Sinning and repenting seemed to be the best she could hope for, until light from God showed her a life completely victorious over sin.

A young Christian visiting Dr. Reid was asked to conduct the regular family evening worship. As he read the 34th Psalm, the sixteenth verse spoke very strongly to Ann: “The face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.” The young man, at her request, turned down the corner of the page upon which the verse was found. Ann went at once to her room, opened the Bible, and began to pray that God would show her what it meant. The great enemy of souls whispered, “But you can't read it.”

In simple faith she replied, “The Lord will give it to me.” Again, a miracle took place. Ann could read the verse! Continuing in prayer, she asked, “What is evil?” Then, following such a revelation of the sin of her heart, Ann spent the rest of the night in earnest supplication for deliverance. The power of prevailing prayer was opened up to her and, like Jacob of old at daybreak, in agony of soul and clinging to God, she exclaimed, “I'll die, but I'll have it.” Rising from her knees, she went downstairs where she encountered the young guest who asked the reason for her distress.

“I want to be sanctified throughout – body, soul, and spirit,” was her reply. He explained that faith in the promises of God would bring the holiness of heart for which she yearned and quoted the verse, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”

Again, Ann went to her knees, pleading, “Lord, I have been knocking all night. Open unto me! Open unto me!” And Heaven responded to her persevering prayer. At once, her mourning was turned into joy and, for two hours, the little house was one of praise. Indeed, it was never again anything else, as Ann walked with God and was led deeper and deeper into the secrets revealed to those who fear Him.

It was at this time that she became known as “Holy Ann,” perhaps first called this in derision by some of the boys of the neighborhood. As she realized the true meaning of the name, her prayer was, “Father, they are calling me Holy Ann. Please make me holy, so the children will not be telling lies.” Her simple petition found an answer in the fragrance of her humble and faithful Christian witness, permeating the lives of all she met. “Holy Ann” she became to the generation who knew her, and to succeeding ones as well.

Her stories of answers to prayer were numerous. One of the greatest interest is that concerning Dr. Reid's well which always was dry for several months during the summer. His young sons were carrying water from a distance to supply not only family needs but those of the stock as well. One day, as Ann was talking about a prayer-answering God and telling some of her own experiences, Henry Reid said in a bantering manner, “Ann, why don't you ask your Father to send water in that well, and not have us boys work so hard?”

The question proved to be a direct challenge to her faith. Alone in her own room, she prayed, “Father, You heard what Henry said tonight. If I get up in class-meeting and say 'My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus,' the boys won't believe I am what I profess to be, if You don't send the water in the well.” Continuing to pray for some time, she received an assurance that her petition had been heard. With the words upon her lips, “Father, if I am what I profess to be, there will be water in the well tomorrow morning,” she went to bed and to sound sleep.

The next morning, Henry was preparing for his long walk to draw water for the needs of the day when, to his astonishment, Ann picked up two empty pails and walked to the well that he had marked was “as dry as the kitchen floor.” In a few minutes, she returned to the house and to the watching, incredulous lad, with the same two pails filled to the brim with clear water.

“What do you say now?” was Ann's triumphant query to the surprised boy who, in turn, could only ask, “Why didn't you do that long ago and save us all that work?” Years afterward, a friend of Ann's who knew the truth of the incident, said that from that time, the well never was dry again even in the hottest summer. Who can say that the day of miracles is past?

Ann's long life of ninety-six years was filled with prayer and praise to God for what He had done for her and was able to do for others. The Irish woman's declining years were spent in the homes of friends who regarded it an honor to minister to her. The Mayor of Toronto assisted at her funeral. The Sunday after her death, he remarked, “I have had two honors this week. It has been my privilege to have an interview with the President of the United States. This is a great honor. Then I have been pallbearer to 'Holy Ann'” (Ann Preston). And with no discredit whatever to President Theodore Roosevelt, he added, “Of the two honors, I prize the latter most.”


He was only a lad from Jerusalem,

Not specially bad – or good.

But straight to the Master he went and said,

“Here's my little parcel of food.

It isn't much, but it's all I have:

My mother gave it to me:

The loaves are few, the fishes but two:

I gladly give them to Thee.”

It was only a parcel of food for one,

But that day it was multiplied.

God has chosen the things that are naught,

The HE may be glorified.

She was only a humble village maid

To whom Gabriel came that night;

“Thou are highly favored of God,” he said,

But she trembled at the sight.

“Fear not,” he added, “I bring the good news.

A Son shall be born of thee:

The kingdom of David shall be His right,

And, Jesus, His name shall be.”

She was only a humble village maid

In whom God had come to abide.

But HE has chosen the things that are naught,

The HE may be glorified.

~ G.R.H.W.