It is possible that something like this could happen today? I think so. How about you?
Jeremiah sat alone in the empty meeting room feeling a growing sense of despair. The meeting had been announced to begin at noon— with lots of advertising and many people contacted. But not a single person had showed up. It was now nearly 12:30 and his growing sense of failure was almost overwhelming. Why had this meeting with such a noble purpose turned out to be such a dismal and depressing disappointment?
The U. S. was in dire straits. The economy was crashing; banks were failing; factories were closing; railroad companies were going bankrupt; unemployment was skyrocketing; and the nation was being divided largely along lines of politics and justice. Added to the bleak economic picture, the American church was losing attendance almost weekly and the general spiritual condition of the country was extremely apathetic.
Burdened by the terrible spiritual and economic condition of the nation, Jeremiah Lanphier, a Christian businessman, decided to invite others to join him in a noonday prayer meeting on Wednesday, September 23, 1857. The meeting was to be held on the third floor of the Dutch Reformed Church on Fulton Street in downtown New York City. Jeremiah worked hard to get the word around so that as many as possible would know of the gathering where they could come and pray about the economic and spiritual condition of the nation.
At 12:30 all seemed lost; the prayer meeting would not happen. Apparently no one cared or believed that prayer could make a difference. Sitting alone in the empty meeting room, Lanphier was surprised to hear the welcome noise of footsteps on the stairs and a moment later one person arrived. In the next few minutes several more arrived and a total of six were present for the first prayer meeting that became known as The Laymen’s Prayer Revival or the Revival on Fulton Street.
Those at that first meeting were encouraged and they came back a week later— joined by others for a total of forty-two who gathered for prayer. A few weeks later it was decided to have a prayer meeting every day at noon, and within six months over ten thousand men were gathering for prayer each midday in New York City.
The prayer revival that began on Fulton Street burst out of New York and flooded across the country. From the tiny town of Hell Corner, New Hampshire, came reports that a prayer revival was born and hardened sinners were repenting. In Chicago two thousand men met daily for prayer in a downtown auditorium. Four thousand men were praying daily in Philadelphia and in other cities such as Waco, Texas, and Louisville, Kentucky, thousands more were gathering daily for prayer.
In Charleston, South Carolina, a Presbyterian pastor called for and led an evening of prayer for the nation. At the appropriate time, the pastor rose to dismiss the crowd— but no one would leave— and the prayer gathering continued until after midnight. Two months of nightly meetings followed with the crowds numbering 1500 to 2000, with hundreds of people turning to the Lord.
Not only were prayer gatherings being held throughout the nation, with large numbers of people coming into relationship with Christ, but God’s presence was being felt throughout the land. Ships coming into New York harbor reported that when they neared the dock they were suddenly aware of the presence of God. On one ship the captain and thirty of the sailors were converted right before the ship docked. On the battleship North Carolina, anchored in New York harbor, four sailors knelt for prayer deep in the bowels of the ship. Other sailors noticed them and began to mock what they were doing when suddenly they were gripped by the presence of the Lord and they too knelt to ask for forgiveness.
It is estimated that between October of 1857 and October of 1859, the churches in America received two million new converts as a direct result of the Prayer Revival.
The similarities between the conditions in America in 1857 and today are strikingly clear. The nation then was in all kinds of economic and financial difficulty, as it is today. The nation was deeply divided in 1857 over the injustice of slavery, and today our nation is just as divided, just as bitter and vitriolic, over politics and justice.
And then we have to compare the state of the church in 1857 to that of the church today. If we are honest about the general spiritual condition of our nation, we have to conclude that it is at a low ebb. Put aside the hyperventilating of a few telling us that, “Everything is okay!” Yes, the number of megachurches is rising but at the same time, church attendance across the nation is dwindling and more churches are closing than are being opened. Recognize that the Christian media have not done what they said they could and would do— evangelize America— and have largely isolated themselves in the “ghetto” of cable T.V. There is no great move of God in our nation!
Will you join me in praying for revival in our land?
This is from David Patterson. You can read more about him at his blog, For Family and Friends.