It has been rightly said that certain men are made to correct specific ills in the society and to bring fire back to a spiritually lax community. Some of these are Elijah in Israel, John in Jerusalem and Jeremiah Lanphier in New York.
Some 160 years ago, America was in a state of confusion and chaos. Some called it the ‘Third Great Panic’ and it swept the giddy structure of speculative wealth away. Banks were failing, factories were shut down, railroads went into bankruptcy and unemployment was the order of the day. In 1857, 30,000 men were unemployed in New York alone. Despair, hopeless and hunger stared the citizens in the face.
On 1st July, 1857, a quiet and gentle businessman took up an appointment as a City Missionary in down-town New York. He was appointed by the North Church of the Dutch Reformed Denomination. The church was suffering from depletion of membership due to emigration of members from down-town to better residential quarters. The missionary (Lanphier) was engaged to make diligent visitation in order to instill a sense of duty and commitment in the residents with a view to enlisting church attendance among the floating, scattered population of the lower city. The Dutch Consistory felt that it had appointed an ideal man for the task and so it was.
Burdened by fulfilling the task alone, Jeremiah Lanphier decided to invite others to join him in a weekly noonday prayer meeting, to be held each Wednesday. He therefore distributed a handbill which read;
“HOW OFTEN SHALL I PRAY
As often as the language of prayer is in my heart; as often as I seem in need of help; as often as I feel the power of temptation; as often as I am made sensible of any spiritual declension or feel the aggression of a worldly sprit.
In prayer, we leave the business of time for that of eternity and intercourse with men for intercourse with God. A day prayer meeting is held every Wednesday, from 12 o’clock to 1 o’clock in the consistory building in the rear of the North Dutch church, corner of Fulton and Williams streets.
The meeting is intended to give merchants, mechanics, clerks, strangers and businessmen generally an opportunity to stop and call upon God amid the perplexities incident to their respective avocations. It will continue for one hour but it is also designed for those who may find it inconvenient to remain for more than five or ten minutes, as well as for those who can spare the whole hour.”
Accordingly, at 12 noon September, 1857, the door was opened and Lanphier took his seat, awaiting the response to his invitation. He paced the room in a mixture of fear and faith. Time passed and minutes wasted, yet no one was in sight. Then at 12:30 pm, the first person appeared, then another, then another until six people were present and the prayer meeting began. On the following Wednesday, October 7, there were forty intercessors in attendance.
On the first week of October 1857, It was decided then to make the meeting daily instead of weekly. Within six months, ten thousand business men were gathering daily for prayer in New York and within two years, a million converts were added to the American churches.
This was undoubtedly one of the greatest prayer revivals that swept America at the time and sparked other revivals. Newspaper reported that over 6,000 were attending various prayer meetings in New York, 6,000 in Pittsburgh.
Daily prayer meetings were held in Washington D.C to accommodate the crowd. By May, 50,000 of New York’s 800,000 people were new converts.
Finney wrote of this revival “This winter of 1857 – 1858 will be remembered as a time where a great revival prevailed. It swept across the land with such power that at the time, not less than 50,000 occurred weekly.”
Some ground rules were set for smooth running of the services and these were;
- Open with a brief hymn.
- Opening prayer.
- Read a passage of scripture.
- A time for requests, exhortations and prayers.
- Prayer would follow each request or at most two requests while individuals were limited to five minutes of prayers and comments.
- No controversial matters were to be mentioned.
- At five minutes before 1;00 a hymn was sung so the meeting could end at 1;00 promptly.
Men of different calibers and status attended the meetings to pour out their hearts to God in intercession and petition and God answered in miraculous ways. The spirit of deep love for Christ and unity among the believers characterized the revival and even the unbelievers marveled at the spirit of unity among the brethren. Another strong point was intercession for the lost and unsaved.
The story of how this one man birthed a revival in New York and conversely in other cities goes on to prove that ‘One with God is a majority’ and also that God seeks men and women who seem little and He uses them to do great things thus confounding the wise.
Perhaps, as Lanphier did, we can also cry out for God to use us for his service. One man changed the course of history 160 years ago. God still seeks for that ONE MAN through whom He will spark another revival and turn the world upside down. Are you that ONE MAN?
Reviewer: Taiwo Awoniyi +2348141584549