“Five Prayer Meetings Go Round the Clock” – Washington, D.C.
“City’s Biggest Church Packed Twice Daily for Prayer” – New Haven, CT
“Ice on the Mohawk Broken for Baptisms” – Schenectady, NY
These were actual headlines in American newspapers during the 1857-1858 Prayer Revival that swept across our nation.
In the midst of great moral decay, a decline in religion, and a pending financial banking collapse, God was at work. Jeremiah Lanphier invited people to pray with him in an old church building at noon on 09/23/1857 in New York City. Six people gathered. The next week it was twenty and the next forty.
Prayer meetings sprung up all over the city, and in six months, 50,000 people were meeting daily for prayer. The services were marked by spontaneity in hymn singing, Bible reading, but primarily intercession for spiritual needs.
The revival spread to other cities. Church historian J. Edwin Orr believed nearly one million people were converted those two years. With no well-known leader, this movement was marked by churches in the same region of differing traditions and denominations, united for the cause of revival.
Charleston, South Carolina, revival broke out at Anson Street Presbyterian Chu
rch, which had 48 black members and 12 white. Walton Yuen writes, “In the summer of 1857, the church’s pastor, John Girardeau pressed his congregation to begin to seek intently for another great spiritual awakening, awaiting a fresh outpouring of the Spirit again. The church fervently started to pray. They even set aside the normal preaching services in order to focus on crying out to Heaven. The congregants labored in prayer for months on end.”
After months of praying, one night it was as if God visited the congregation, setting off a chain reaction within the city. Dr. John Girardeau preached every night for eight weeks, preaching on sin and repentance, faith and justification and regeneration to crowds from 1500 to 2000. Many whites and blacks were converted.
Revival spread to other nearby places. In Beaufort, SC, for example, “a small church reported seeing 400 new members join their assembly in just a few days” (Yuen). The revival and awakening crossed denominational and social lines.
Today, God is doing something unusual across our nation. Singer Michael W. Smith recently told CBN, “God is on the move. I’m so grateful that I’m alive to get to see it. I think what we’ve prayed for for so long is actually happening. … There’s this resurgence of faith.”
Recently the faith-based hit The Jesus Revolution passed $40 million at the box office and is now the highest-grossing movie for its studio, Lionsgate, since 2019.
Dr. Timothy Tennent, President of Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky, recently wrote, “An awakening is where God begins to stir and awaken people up from their spiritual slumber. This is definitely happening not only in Wilmore, but as this move of God spreads to other schools and communities across the nation and even the world. There are many reports that this is what is happening. [W]e must keep our hearts and eyes fixed on Jesus and ask him to complete the work he has begun so that, over time, there is a lasting transformation in the lives of those who are being touched by God.”
When I was a young man, a popular Christian song spoke of the river of God flowing. While the river of God seems to now be flowing through America, may we not just stand on the bank and watch. May we jump into its flow.About forty people gathered a few weeks ago at Temple Baptist Church in town for one specific purpose – asking God to pour His Spirit out in Lancaster County. Several pastors who attended commented that we need to continue doing this.
We are not trying to push a program, denomination, or agenda. We are wanting to call God’s people to gather humbly to ask the Lord to cause His river that is flowing to sweep through this area.
I don’t want to get in God’s way or miss what He was doing. One of the most damning verses in the Bible speaks of Jesus’ visit to his home area: “And so he did only a few miracles there because of their unbelief” (Matthew 13:58). Imagine being in the physical presence of Jesus Christ and choosing to not believe because He did not fit my expectations. McDow and Reid share, “An institution can be in revival even when some members are skeptical of God’s movement. . . . When revival erupts, the tendency is to expect all to receive immediately what God is doing, but this is never the case. Skeptics are witnessing things beyond their experience” (Firefall: How God Shaped History through Revivals, Create Space Publishing).
Dr. Joe Youngblood and I hope to build a connected prayer network in Lancaster County. We’d love to get the name of a potential prayer coordinator and the name of a pastor from every interested church. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Joe at email@example.com.
We want to invite any Jesus-followers who believe His Word to join in praying for revival and spiritual awakening to join us for our second Concert of Prayer on May 7 at Catawba Baptist Church in Lancaster at 7pm.
Roy Hession said, “Prayer is the foundation of revival, and testimony is the spark that ignites it.” Let’s lay the foundation together.
Pictures used courtesy of Pexels and Pixabay
Pictures used courtesy of Pexels and Pixabay