During his old age, while Imam Ahmed was traveling he stopped by a town. After the prayers, he wanted to stay for the night in the masjid yard because he didn’t know anyone in the town. Owing to his humility, he hadn’t introduced himself to anyone thinking that if he did, he would be welcomed by many people.
Failing to recognize Ahmed Ibn Hanbal, the caretaker of the mosque refused to let him stay in the mosque. Imam Ahmed tried numerous times, but the guard did not accept his requests. Frustrated, Imam Ahmed resolved to spend the night in the masjid yard. The guard became furious. As Imam Ahmed was quite old, the caretaker had to drag him out of the mosque. On seeing this, a baker from a nearby place felt pity for this man (Imam Ahmed) and offered to be the host to him for the night. During his stay with the baker, Imam Ahmed observed that the baker would constantly recite Istighfar (seek forgiveness from Allah). Imam Ahmed asked the baker if the constant practice of saying Istighfar had any effect on him.
The baker responded, "By Allah! No duaa (supplication to God) I made except that it was answered but one."
"And what is that?" asked Imam Ahmed.
"To be able to see the famed Imam Ahmed Ibn Hanbal!" Replied the baker.
On this, Imam Ahmed Ibn Hanbal said that "Allah had not only listened to his dua but had dragged him (Imam Ibn Hanbal onto his (the baker’s) doorsteps."
[Summarized from Al Jumuah magazine, vol 19, issue 7]