Some calculate that as many as 3% of the population of the United States may have been converted during what came to be known as the “Businessmen’s Awakening”. In this largest forgotten chapter of American church history, we find the story of The Fulton Street Revival”.
THE PRAYER REVIVAL OF 1857-58
TODAY, marks the 164th anniversary of the beginning of the Great Prayer Revival of 1857-58. This revival began in New York City, when a pastor, Jeremiah Lanphier, burdened over the lost and the churches’ need to be revived spiritually led him to start a businessman’s prayer meeting. They began meeting on September 23, 1857 once a week on Wednesdays from 12:00-1:00 p.m. at the North Dutch Reformed Church.
He invited people to join him in prayer . . . “to implore God to convict sinners and bring repentance in the midst of the great city.” After 30 minutes only one other person had showed up, but then several others came and a total of six men poured their hearts out to God for mercy and revival. Lanphier was not deterred, though, and a week later had 16 show up – and after three weeks 40. By October 18, there were consistently about one hundred people per day joining him to pray for God to bring revival.
Then God providentially moved by allowing the economy to crash in late October and within weeks 30,000 New Yorkers lost their jobs. God used this financial disaster to move men to pray and by November every floor of the church building was filled with men who came to pray every Wednesday at noon. These prayer meetings soon began to happen daily – and other cities followed suit. Soon men in Cleveland, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Chicago had prayer meetings with 5000-10,000 praying daily for revival.
Revival meetings began springing up everywhere in the United States – and by late 1859 and into early 1860 some 1,000,000 people were saved and came to Christ. The prayer meetings and revivals also spread to Europe where it was said that an additional 1,000,000 came to Christ. These were not revivals of preachers and pastors, but one where men from all walks of life were filled with the life of God and openly testified of their faith. Churches were filled to overflowing with those newly saved as well as those revived in their love for Christ. Here was one testimony of the revival:
“The great waves of religious excitement which is now sweeping over this nation, is one of the most remarkable movements since the reformation . . . travelers relate thatin cars and steamboats, in banks and markets, everywhere through the interior this matteris an absorbing topic. Churches are crowded . . . school-houses are turned i nto chapels, converts are numbered by the scores of thousands.In this City, we have beheld a sight which not the most enthusiastic fanatic for church-observances could ever have hoped to look upon; we have seen in a business-quarter of the City in the busiest hours, assemblies of merchants, clerks and working-men, to the number of 5,000 gathered day after day for a simple and solemn worship . . . It is most impressive to think that over this great land tens and fifties of thousandsof men and women are putting themselves at this time in a simple and serious way the greatest question that can ever come before the human mind:, ‘What shall we do to be saved from sin?’”
The “Fulton Street Revival” began with a godly man who was concerned about the spiritual state of his city and his church. It began with just a few earnest Christians meeting for prayer weekly – and then daily. It came even as society was divided badly, and as the economy fell apart. Are we not living in times nearly identical to these? Do we not see the lack of God’s presence and power in His church? Do we not see the lost in droves all around us – and yet they care little of nothing about God and the reality of His judgment at the end of their lives – and the end of this world? Oh, that true revival among God’s people, and a spiritual awakening among the lost would spring up once again. Oh, that men would once again see the overwhelming spiritual need – and respond with prayer for God’s mercy upon us and our land. Oh that this kind of broken, passionate, importunate prayer would once again be lifted by one, a few, a small bad, and eventually hundreds of thousands until our generation experiences a move of God much like what happened 164 years ago today. Please, Father, make it so in our day – revive our hearts again, so that we would rejoice in You!
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