Jeremy Lanphier leads prayer revival in 1857
Article originally posted on Christianity.com by Dan Graves.
Jeremy Lanphier had hoped for more. But six people were six people. And did not scripture say, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of you”? So on this day, September 23, 1857, at lunchtime, he did not moan about the small number who turned out in response to his advertisement. Instead, he knelt with the others in the rented hall in Fulton Street, New York.
America sure needed prayer. The United States was in spiritual, political, and economic decline. Many people were disillusioned with spiritual things because of preachers who had repeatedly predicted the end of the world in the 1840’s. Agitation over slavery was breeding political unrest, and civil war seemed near. Just this year, financial panic had hit. Banks failed, railroads went bankrupt, factories closed, unemployment increased.
In lower Manhattan, a Dutch Reformed church had been steadily losing members, largely because of population changes owing to immigration; they hired the layman Jeremy to reverse the trend with an active visitation program. Despite his visits, church members were listless. So he rented the hall on Fulton street and advertised prayer meetings. He himself enjoyed close fellowship with the Lord and thought others might, too. Conditions in the United States got worse; maybe that was a good thing. Sometimes trouble makes people turn to God. The Bank of Philadelphia failed. The third week of Jeremy’s program, his prayer meeting had forty participants and they asked for daily meetings.
On October 10, the stock market crashed. Suddenly people were flocking to the prayer meetings. Within six months 10,000 people were gathering daily for prayer in New York City alone.