A lone figure stood at the corner of a busy intersection in the heart of New York City. His heart weighed heavily in his chest, broken for the purposeless, despondent masses of New York, what could a single lay missionary do? He had been diligent in his efforts of personal evangelism, street preaching, and door-to-door witnessing. His burden for the throngs of people had forced him to his knees. Could he ever have imagined what would soon come about? Within a matter of months, more than fifty thousand people would gather daily for prayer!
Jeremiah Lanphier (b. 1809) was that lone man. He prayed “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” out of his passion for the salvation of the residents of New York City. On September 23, 1857, he knelt in prayer, alone in a quiet room, shortly after the noon hour. Lanphier’s intercession ascended from the upper lecture room of the Old North Dutch Reformed Church.
Lanphier had found prayer to be a great source of comfort. He had noticed how the businessmen were “hurrying along their way, often with care worn faces, and anxious, restless gaze.” He presented to the church board the idea of a prayer meeting for businessmen. Their response was less than enthusiastic, but they agreed to allow Lanphier to proceed. Determining that the noon hour was the most feasible time for a prayer meeting, he printed and distributed a handbill publicizing the meeting.
At first, Lanphier prayed alone. Then, one joined him, and by the end of the hour there were six. Prayer meetings had been held before, but this was different. Former meetings tended toward formalism and routine. These meetings inaugurated by Lanphier were free and spontaneous.
The following Wednesday, there were 20, and on the third, 30 to 40. Those present determined to meet daily rather than weekly. On October 14, over 100 came. At this point, many in attendance were unsaved persons, many of whom were under great conviction of sin. By the end of the second month, three large rooms were filled. Almost simultaneously, prayer meetings were begun across the city. Many churches sponsored such meetings without knowledge of other activity similar to their own.
Amazing answers to prayer were recorded as these meetings spread across the nation. One man spoke of his burden for an unconverted son. This son, who had traveled across the world, was converted soon after the request was made at Fulton Street. One young man came to the meeting seeking salvation. He was converted after hearing a request by a mother for her son. “It struck me that that was from my mother,” the youth reported. “After meeting I got sight of that request. And sure enough, it was from my mother, in her own handwriting.”
Reports of revival and conversion came from across the nation. In only two months in the state of Ohio, 200 towns recorded twelve thousand conversions. Prayer meetings sprang up everywhere. In Indiana, 200 towns experienced renewal. One of the most moving accounts out of the Prayer Revival came from the town of Kalamazoo, Michigan. At a prayer meeting there, a man in attendance related the following account:
At our very first meeting someone put in such a request as this: “A praying wife requests the prayers of this meeting for her unconverted husband, that he may be converted and made a humble disciple of the Lord Jesus.” All at once a stout burly man arose and said, “I am that man, I have a pious praying wife, and this request must be for me. I want you to pray for me.” As soon as he sat down, in the midst of sobs and tears, another man arose and said, “I am that man, I have a praying wife. She prays for me. And now she asked you to pray for me. I am sure I am that man, and I want you to pray for me.”
Five other men made similar statements. The power of God fell upon that meeting and that town. In a brief period, almost five hundred conversions came to the town.
You will never get to the place in your life or ministry where you can serve the Lord without much time in prayer. I will never forget the comments of an elderly saint at a prayer conference I led in Texas. “The only place you will ever find power coming before prayer,” he said, “is in the dictionary.”
Today thousands of young people gather around flagpoles to pray for revival. Will you join them in prayer for our land?
NOTE: This was adapted from Firefall 2.0.