One Million Saved: With little human planning, a nation-wide revival broke out among God’s people in “union prayer meetings” beginning in 1857. In the awakening that followed, nearly 1,000,000 people accepted Christ and became involved in churches over a two-year period. Based on percentages of converts to the general population, a similar move of God in our day would result in 8-9 million people turning to Christ.
Great Need: The years leading up to 1857 were years of tremendous growth and prosperity for America. Population was booming. People and businesses were becoming wealthy. The “cares of the world” captured the minds and hearts of Americans choking out their interest in God and His kingdom. Drunkenness was rampant and the nation was divided by slavery. Ministering in the dark slums of Hell’s Kitchen, Lanphier poured himself into the lives of people people who were homeless, helpless and hopeless. Month after month he went door to door sharing the Good News, distributing tracts and holding Bible studies with whomever would listen In addition, churches were declining in numbers, strength and influence.
Prayer Meetings: The growth of New York City began to force the wealthy residents out of the downtown areas. They were replaced by unchurched masses of common laborers. Many churches decided to move to “more fruitful” locations. In a state of decline, the North Dutch Church decided to stay and reach the lost masses around them. They employed a business man, Jeremiah Lanphier, as a lay missionary. He began to visit homes, distribute Bibles and tracts and advertise church services. Facing a discouraging response, he found comfort in prayer. Lanphier would begin each day going from office to office, house to house and shop to shop; but by midday he was physically, emotionally and spiritually worn out. He discovered that, even as the body needs food, the soul and spirit need prayer. Lanphier realized his need and regularly returned to a room in the church building to cry out to God for spiritual strength. This fresh, personal experience of the power of prayer suggested Lanphier that there might be others, especially those engaged in business, who might profit from time in prayer.
One day Lanphier prayed, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” He sensed God’s leadership to begin a weekly prayer service at the noon hour for workers and business people to communie with God. He began on Wednesday, September 23, 1857, with six people attending. The second week 20 attended and 40 the thrid. The hunger and thirst after God was evident, and they began the daily “union prayer meeting” the fourth week. People of all classes of society and frm many denominations attended.
The Economic Crash of 1857: God had a praying people in place when the financial crash of 1857 hit one week after the daily prayer meetings began. “When it [the crash] came, merchants by the thousands all over the country were forced to the wall, banks failed, and railroads went into bankruptcy.”
In New York City alone 30,000 people lost their jobs. Added to the financail crisis, the nation was gripped by the tensions over slavery. The future of the nation was bleak indeed.
Revival: In the midst of disaster and with a great hunger for God, people flooded the prayer meeting by the thousands. The meetings spread all over town and then across the nation. Businesses even closed to allow their employees time for prayer. The newspapers gave front-page coverage of “Revival News” and revival spread like wildfire across the country. Religion became the common topic of conversation.
Awakening: When the revival/awakening was at its peak, 50,000 people were converted every week. Within a year nearly one million people were converted. Would you be willing to pray, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” Would you be willing to wait on the Lord until He tells you what he wants to do through you for revival in our day?
One man’s obedience to prayer… began a revival… that transformed a nation.