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?

When is Revival Needed?

We often hear that the great need of the church is revival!  The history of the church in the USA records times of religious movements.

What is called “The Great Awakening” was a revival that had a big influence on the English colonies during the 1730’s and 1740’s. Secular rationalism was being widely accepted and faith in God was at a low point. Christian leaders began going from town to town preaching on the need of salvation and faith in Jesus Christ. A renewed interest in God and the church spread through the colonies. Historians believe it had a lasting impact on some current Christian denominations and society at large.

The main emphasis on the preaching of that time was that all men/women were sinners in need of a savior. People can be saved by God’s grace if they simply confess their sin and follow Christ. The churches by that time had become very formal and this revival encouraged a more personal and less formal approach to God and to church services.

This idea of a more personal connection with God rather than relying on a minister led to great growth in the Methodists and Baptists denominations. Princeton and Dartmouth were founded during this revival.

Sadly, as time passed people once again became more complacent in their commitment to the church.

The second “Great Awakening” was in the early 1800’s. Meetings were held throughout the country and the “camp meeting” began. The Calvinism of the earlier churches in the USA began to move toward the Arminianism belief that man could choose to serve God or reject Him, that he was not predestined to be chosen by God for salvation or not chosen.

One great move of revival that has always inspired me is what is called the “Businessman’s Revival” or the “Prayer Meeting Revival.” In 1857 a businessman, Jeremiah Lanphier, began to feel a great burden for those who did not know Jesus Christ.

Praying for direction from God, he decided to organize a prayer meeting for businessmen. It would be on a Wednesday from 12:00 to 1:00 pm. He encouraged them to come whether they could pray for 5 minutes, 10 minutes or the entire hour.

The date was set for his first businessmen’s prayer meeting to be at noon on September 23, 1857. When the day came, he was ready to welcome the other businessmen for a time of prayer. At noon, no one showed up. He continued in prayer, refusing to give up. Finally, at 12:30 one man came for prayer. Before 1:00 came, there were five more men who joined him. Slowly from there the prayer meeting began to grow in number.

About a month after the meetings began, the stock market crashed. Attendance began to really grow as people were desperate This “prayer revival” was not organized or run by any particular church or minister. Lay people from different denominations took part. It is estimated that over 1 million people made a commitment to Jesus Christ in the next year.

The Pentecostal and Charismatic movements were born from a revival in Los Angeles that ran from 1906 until 1915. The black minister William J. Seymour led the movement and it was an interracial group that included both black and white and women in leadership roles.

There have been other times of revival since then like the “Jesus Movement” and the Billy Graham crusades to mention only a couple.

So What is Revival?

The dictionary tells us that revival is:

  • an improvement in the condition or strength of something.
  • an instance of something becoming popular, active, or important again.
  • a restoration

So – Do We Need a Revival Today?

  • Coming out of the past two years when Covid 19 caused many of our churches to close their doors or people just afraid to come to church, we truly need a revival.
  • Looking at our nation and all the division and anger, we truly need a revival.
  • Sensing all the stress people have had – still have, we truly need a revival.

What Will Bring Revival

Joel 2:12-17 – “Now, therefore,” says the Lord, “Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.”  So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm.  Who knows if He will turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him—A grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord your God?

Blow the trumpet in Zion, consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly; gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children and nursing babes; let the bridegroom go out from his chamber, and the bride from her dressing room.  Let the priests, who minister to the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar; let them say, “Spare Your people, O Lord, and do not give Your heritage to reproach, that the nations should rule over them.  Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’”

One scripture that is often quoted when calling for prayer is:

2 Chronicles 7:14 – if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

Sadly most of the time it is just suggesting if we pray, God will heal. But there is more than praying required here. The verse says:

  • Humble ourselves
  • Not just pray, but pray and seek His face (no 10 cents prayers here)
  • Turn from our wicked ways.

May we began to hunger and thirst for a revival in our land.