New York Bows in Prayer Within six months 10,000 businessmen (out of a population of 800,000) were gathering daily in New York City for prayer. In January 1858 there were at least twenty other prayer meetings going full tilt in the city. Many of them were sparked by the Young Men’s Christian Association. Other cities had them too.
Eyewitness Describes Meeting The Fulton Street prayer meeting may well be the model for effective prayer meetings today. How was the early meeting conducted? Why did it have such power? Fortunately, an eyewitness account, published in 1858, has come down to us. You feel that you too are there as you read: We take our seat in the middle room, ten minutes before 12 o’clock noon. A few ladies are seated in one corner, and a few businessmen are scattered here and there through the room. Five minutes to 12 the room begins to fill up rapidly. Two minutes to 12, the leader passes in, and takes his seat in the desk or pulpit. At 12 noon, punctual to the moment, at the first stroke of the clock the leader arises and commences the meeting by reading two or three verses of a hymn.
Each person finds a hymnbook in his seat; all sing with heart and voice. The leader offers a prayer— short, pointed, to the purpose. Then reads a brief portion of Scripture. Ten minutes are now gone. Meantime, requests in sealed envelopes have been going up to the desk for prayer. A deep, solemn silence settles down upon our meeting. It is holy ground. The leader stands with slips of paper in his hand. He says: “This meeting is now open for prayer. Brethren from a distance are specially invited to take part. All will observe the rules.”
Two prayers in succession followed these requests—very fervent, very earnest. And others who rose to pray at the same time, sat down again when they found themselves preceded by the voices already engaged in prayer. Then arose from all hearts that beautiful hymn, sung with touching pathos, so appropriate too, just in this stage of this meeting with all these cases full before us, There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel’s veins,
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.
Then followed prayer by one who prays earnestly for all who have been prayed for, for all sinners present, for the perishing thousands in this city, for the spread of revivals all over the land and world. It is now a quarter to one o’clock. Time has fled on silver wings …. Then came the closing hymn, the benediction, and the parting for twenty-three hours.
When the revival was at high tide through the nation, it was judged that 50,000 persons a week were converted. And the number who joined the churches in 1858 amounted to almost 10 percent of the country’s total church membership! If the estimate of one million converts is correct that accounts for one- thirtieth of the total United States population of that time—and almost all in one year! Denominational differences were forgotten in a concern for people’s souls. It was a revival of prayer. Never, since that time, have Americans bowed before the Lord so unitedly. What lesson does this revival teach this generation? Certainly it demonstrates again how God can use one dedicated life to work out His purposes. Jeremiah Lanphier is an inspiration to all unsung, seemingly unappreciated church workers everywhere. Lanphier’s dedication to the work came only after a struggle and total surrender to God.