Two thousand people gathered in New York City recently to remember and celebrate an event that happened there one hundred fifty years ago. World Magazine reported the reason for the celebration as follows:
“On September 23, 1857, Jeremiah Lanphier climbed the stairs to the third floor of a church on Fulton Street in lower Manhattan. He entered a deserted lecture room and at noon began to pray. Half an hour later, one man joined him. By 1:00, six men were praying. Soon thousands of men and women across the city were praying each day in a movement known as the Fulton Street Revival.”
The recent New York meeting included the unveiling of a statue of Jeremiah Lanphier, the prime mover in this North American spiritual awakening. Lanphier was a quiet but zealous former businessman who had accepted an appointment to be a city missionary for the North Dutch Reformed Church in a difficult area to serve. He often became discouraged but drew strength from prayer to go on. Thinking others might also be helped by prayer, he prepared printed invitations for any who would like to pray with him. The prayer meetings were to last an hour but were designed for people who found it inconvenient to stay more than five or ten minutes.
By spring, many other noon hour prayer meetings had been started and were taking place daily. Some of New York’s largest churches were crowded to capacity at noon and even police and fire departments opened their buildings for prayer services, involving an estimated 50,000 praying people, but this was only the beginning of greater things.
Almost simultaneous to the New York awakening, was a smaller but significant one in Hamilton, Ontario, headed by Walter Palmer, a physician, and his talented wife, Phoebe, who were holding revival meetings. Then, during the second week in October, a financial panic set in that prostrated businesses and turned the minds of many to their inability to cope with such severe problems apart from the comfort and power of prayer.
In his book, “The Fervent Prayer,” J. Edwin Orr says “It is almost impossible not to connect the three events, for in them was demonstrated the need of a religious revival, the means by which to accomplish it, and the provision of divine grace to meet the serious situation in church and society.
“From tiny springs of prayer in New York and preaching in Hamilton came a flood soon to envelop the world. The United States received the blessing first, then The United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa, and South India.”
Orr adds that within two years two million people were brought to faith in Christ and became members of churches.
How did this great growth come about? Through prayer!
A respected journal on my desk is open to an article about strategies to reach people with the life changing message of God’s love, featuring the groping of church leaders to find ways to communicate with members of generation X and other age labels.
Perhaps we’ve forgotten that the basic need of every generation is simply faith; not froth. And great blessings flow to those who return to the basics.