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1857 A.D.:  The Great Prayer Revival Commences

From Judges Chapter 13: 24-25 

 "  24 The woman gave birth to a boy and named him Samson. He grew and the Lord blessed him, 25 and the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him while he was in Mahaneh Dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol."    End Quote  Note how the spirit of Samson was first stirred in 'Mahaneh-Dan', which looks and sounds a little like 'Manhattan', where 'Uncle Sam' is essentially first stirred, as told in this account.

  There are a lot of truly large forests in the world.  At least, there were at various times.  In North America there were forests that you could ride through for months with a wagon pulled by oxen.  I would say that Canada could still claim that in certain locations, taking certain paths.

  There are the Amazon, the Congo, the great forests of Northern Russia, which are still gigantic - all of these are pretty enormous forests, though threatened by developement in many cases.  But one thing that all dense and continuous forests have in common is that, if you make them dry enough, they can be started on fire with only one small match.

  It's kind of amazing, if you truly start to think about it, that one tiny point of 'heat and oxidation', perhaps as large as the tip of your little finger, could alter a landscape that it would take a couple of months to walk through.  If the conditions are right though, it could happen.  It's never been dry enough to my knowledge, throughout an entire great forest, for one forest fire to burn it all.  But it could essentially happen were all conditions just right.

  That's the nature of a forest fire...they start from small things, but you can hardly know when and where they will finally quit burning.  They are like revivals by the Holy Spirit, in that respect.  The smallest things can seem to start one, though rarely.  Yet once they start, the size they can grow to is bounded by almost nothing, so long as there are dry human hearts and souls that thirst for a relationship with their Maker.

  In the United States, in 1857, a revival began, and it was counted to be one of the largest of all time in it's day.  But though God had prepared a very vast landscape of people for this time of revival by giving them times of dryness and despair because of their actions, it is a revival that was ignited from a very small source, and depending on how you want to look at it, it could be a source as small as just one single man - Jeremiah Lamphier. 

  Or, according to history, it may have been from a smaller source than that.  It might be that the revival of 1857 began from seven spoken words uttered by this man, Jeremiah Lamphier.  The words were powerful words indeed!  In 1857, Jeremiah Lamphier said, in prayer:  "Lord, what will You have me do?" 

  Seven little words, but they started a virtual forest fire of the Holy Spirit.

  Jeremiah Lamphier was a Christian, a lay minister, and he lived in New York city.  The year 1857 was at the end of a very profitable economic period in the United States.  A 'bubble' of prosperity had risen, peaked, and now it appeared to everyone that it was just about to collapse.  There was a lot of worry, a lot of concern among businessmen, and New York City even in 1857 had a lot of businessmen. 

  Jeremiah was aware of all this, and when he spoke that prayer to God - "Lord, what would You have me do?" - it began to seem to him that the answer from God was that he should start a prayer meeting.  There were churches, and there were church services, so those things were available.  But there was nowhere a man could go in the middle of the tense business week, at lunch time, and just kneel down with some other Christian fellows and pray to God....for comfort, for peace of heart and mind, for continued business success, or whatever their hearts might need.  So Jeremiah arranged for such a place to meet and advertised it locally, hoping that some people might respond. 

  On September 23, 1857 the first meeting was held.  It was a 12:00 noon meeting on the 3rd floor of the Fulton Street Dutch Reformed Church in New York City.  When 12:00 noon came Jeremiah began praying, but he was the only one there.  A half hour went by and since that is not so long of a time we can imagine that he probably prayed, among other things, that maybe someone else would come to pray with him.  If so his prayers were rewarded.  Five other men came at about 12:30 and so they had a group prayer meeting for a while and it left them all feeling refreshed.  Jeremiah let them know that there would be another at noon on the next Wednesday.

  Jeremiah was probably encouraged to find that on the next Wednesday there were 20 who came to pray.  Why not....the financial crash of 1857 had officially begun that week.  News of the US Central America sinking with a giant shipment of gold counted upon by the banks was a sort of a trigger for a bunch of additional factors that had combined to make the crash all but inevitable.  So instead of worrying about the economy going bad they now actually had a crashing economy.  To businessmen that's worse!

  So next week there were 30 who came.  And they decided to begin meeting daily instead of weekly.

  The next day there were 100 men.

  So great was the need for prayer in the worried hearts and minds of the men of that city that within three months there was no room in the church, anywhere, for men to pray at the 12:00 prayer meetings.  Every room was full, and men kneeled together in groups outside the church door.  Jeremiah made arrangements to also use a Methodist church just around the corner - John's 3rd Street Methodist Church.  It was filled on the very first day that Jeremiah's group of praying men were allowed to use it.  Within a few weeks ten thousand were praying daily in New York City.   

  In the next six months the financial situation worsened and there were about 150 different prayer meetings going on within New York City by then.  The situation had far outgrown Jeremiah Lamphier by this time and was beginning to become a vast spiritual movement.  In New York alone hundreds of businesses had folded, and they say that more than 30,000 people were out of work - a lot of men in 1857 to be unemployed in one city.  

  Around 50,000 people gathered for noon time prayer in various spots in New York City, and other towns and cities were doing it also.  The practice of group prayer was spreading expotentially.  There were financial tensions, political tensions, slavery was becoming a very hot topic...there was much on the minds of the people of the United States; it was a frightening time.  They needed their God, and knew it.

  How big did it get?  One source I found reported that a man traveling from Omaha, Nebraska to Boston, Massachusetts found that in the towns he came through along the way there was a prayer meeting going on in every one.  He said it was basically a continuous prayer meeting all along the way, and that distance is probably close to 1,500 miles.  At its peak, in the next couple of years, there were around 7,000 people converting to Christianity each day.  Some estimate that around 2,000,000 Americans became Christian during this period.

  Here is an account from the site about an occurrence at a children's school during this time period:

In the Christian Equippers International's Spirit-Led Evangelism textbook's section on revival, they gave this story from the 1858 Revival:

"A schoolboy in class became so troubled about his soul that the schoolmaster sent him home. An older boy, a Christian, went with him, and before they had gone far led him to Christ. Returning at once to school, this new convert testified to his teacher: 'Oh, I am so happy! I have the Lord Jesus in my heart.' These simple words had an astonishing effect; boy after boy rose silently and left the room. Going outside, the teacher found these boys all on their knees in a row along the wall of the playground. Very soon, their silent prayer became a bitter cry; it was heard by another class inside and pierced their hearts. They fell on their knees and their cry for mercy was heard in turn by a girls' class above. In a few moments, the whole school was on their knees! Neighbors and passers-by came flocking in, and, as they crossed the threshold, they all came under the same convicting power. Every room was filled with men, women, and children seeking God." (B6)

  Many accounts of 'Christian revival' throughout the various centuries and throughout the different nations and peoples of the world contain reference to a potent and palpable power being literally present and felt by all, a power that makes people feel their guilt before God.  Perhaps it surrounded John the Baptist as well?  

 The movement inevitably spilled over to other nations.  Similar revivals occurred in India, South Africa, Continental Europe, Western Russia, the South Seas, and Australia near this time, and probably related to it in some manner, because many missionaries were birthed during this great movement and financial crashes have a tendency to spread as well.

  Dr. Livingston, Dwight Moody and IraSankey, Charles Spurgeon and a great many famous names arose subsequent to and perhaps because of this 1857 revival, and so it went on for years in a way, traveling from people to people, land to land.  What would become the United Kingdom saw over 1 million converts during this period.

  So, though he was just an ordinary man that God chose, the willing heart of Jeremiah Lamphier was a mighty great match in a very dry forest.  If his heart was so useful to Jesus, then perhaps any one of our hearts could be also.  So let's hope that when God looks down, he sees us standing willing and ready, a vessal suitable for His use.  He uses such vessals for important things, large and small.

  And don't forget the words that began so large a fire from so small a source:  "Lord, what will You have me do?" 



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