Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Great Prayer Meeting Revival

On July 1, 1857, a quiet businessman, Jeremiah Lanphier, was appointed a city missionary at the North Dutch Reformed Church on Fulton Street, Lower Manhattan. In September, Jeremiah decided to start a noonday prayer meeting once a week, and he began to pass out flyers to advertise the meeting. On the first day, Sept. 23, six men gathered to pray. 

The second week of October, the stock market crashed. On October 17, twenty gathered in what was now a daily noon prayer meeting. The prayer meetings grew, and six months later,
10,000 businessmen were meeting daily for prayer in New York, and noonday prayer meetings started in Philadelphia, Boston, and Chicago, where 2,000 gathered daily in the Metropolitan Theatre for prayer. In Louisville, KY, several thousand prayed in churches and overflowed in meetings in the Masonic Temple. In Cleveland, Ohio, 2,000 a day prayed. In St. Louis, the churches were filled every day at noon for months. 

The meetings were simple. They began and ended on time. Anyone, male or female could pray, give a testimony, or lead in singing as they were led. The meetings spread across the country, and revival with them down the eastern seaboard, to the west, San Francisco and southern California. 

Colleges and universities saw a great harvest, including Harvard University, Yale University, and Princeton University.  At Yale, over 200 of the 447 students came to Christ. At Princeton, 102 of the 272 students professed faith in Jesus and fifty entered vocational ministry. At Amhurst, the entire student body was converted in 1858. 

Within two years, one million people were added to the churches at the rate of 10,000 per week. At one point, 50,000 conversions were being reported weekly. 

The revival continued in the Confederate Army during the War between the States where 150,000 young men made professions of faith in Christ. After the war, the revival came to newly emancipated Blacks among whom church membership grew fourfold to 4.5 million, 22% of the population.[1]

[1] R.E. Davies, I Will Pour Out My Spirit: A History and Theology of Revivals and Evangelical Awakenings (Turnbridge Wells, UK: Monarch, 1992), 153-155.