The Prayer Meeting Revival

Jeremiah Calvin Lanphier (September 3, 1809 – December 26, 1898) was an American lay missionary in New York City, popularly regarded as having been instrumental in instigating the American religious revival of 1857–58.  While Lanphier worked as a cloth merchant, he also joined the choir at Broadway Tabernacle where he became an evangelical Christian

During the 1850s, prosperous churches with wealthy congregants moved uptown to more fashionable neighborhoods.  But Lanphier continued to live in lower Manhattan where the number of unchurched residents increased. When a member of the leadership of the nearby North Dutch Church offered him a position as lay missionary, he closed his business and began his work for the church on July 1, 1857.

Although Lanphier had no theological training, he distributed tracts, visited local businesses, invited children to Sunday school, and encouraged hotels to refer guests to the church on Sunday.  However, he found that his time spent in prayer brought him the most peace and resolve, and he determined to start a weekly noon prayer meeting for businessmen that would take advantage of the hour when businesses were closed for lunch. The handbill he had printed read: “[Wednesday] prayer meeting from 12 to 1 o’clock. Stop 5, 10 or 20 minutes, or the whole time, as your time admits.”

On September 23, 1857, he set up a signboard in front of the church. No one came to the appointed room, and he prayed by himself for thirty minutes. At 12:30 another man joined him, four more by the end of the hour.

The next week there were twenty men, forty the following week. In October the prayer meetings became daily, and in January 1858, a second room had to be used simultaneously, by February, a third. By then as many as twenty noon prayer meetings were being held elsewhere in the city. In mid-March a theatre capable of holding 3,000 was crowded for the prayer meetings. By the end of March every downtown New York church and public hall was filled to capacity, and ten thousand men were gathering daily for prayer.

This revival was made up of people from all different denominations. It was a lay person’s revival. This was a prayer meeting for souls, and within a year it is estimated that over 1 million people got saved. 

What might happen again today when a few people set aside a little time each day, or even just an hour a week to pray together for the lost, for a fresh outpouring of the Spirit in our day?

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