Is Revival the Answer for America’s Problems?

A great conflict loomed on the national horizon in 1857 because of slavery issues. Yet, unlike other times when America faced dangers, people did not flock to churches. God no longer seemed relevant, especially to businessmen.

But then, without warning and almost overnight, an unexplained financial panic hit America. Banks closed. Railroads declared bankruptcy. Thousands of workers were laid off. Many families faced starvation.

In New York City, where 30,000 men were out of work, Jeremiah Lamphier felt God wanted him to begin a noon-time prayer meeting for businessmen. The forty-six year old businessman printed a pamphlet entitled, How Often Shall I Pray, handed them out to the local businessmen, and invited them to prayer meetings.

The first meeting was held on September 23, 1857. Lamphier prayed alone for the first half hour, but six men joined him for the second thirty minutes. On the following Wednesday, twenty men showed up for prayer. One week later, forty showed up. By October 14, 1857, more than one hundred attended the meetings.

It was soon decided that weekly assemblages were not enough. So, they met on a daily basis. Pastors who visited the gatherings opened their own churches for prayer times. Before long, young, old, rich, and poor crowded into prayer meetings.

Within six months, ten thousand businessmen attended over one hundred and fifty different prayer meetings in New York City on a daily basis. Across the nation, similar gatherings sprang up in Boston, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Richmond, Louisville, Charleston, Savannah, New Orleans, Memphis,  St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago, and countless other cities.

The prayer meetings were quite simple in structure. A leader started the hour by announcing a hymn. All stood and sang one or two verses. Then, the leader said a brief prayer, and the service was then turned over to the assembled members. Any person was free to speak or pray for no longer than five minutes. The leader rang a bell if any man overextended his time so that others  could have a turn.

Prayer requests were made for family members and others. Many just asked prayer for themselves. Still others exhorted the men to pray more fervently and to live holy lives. Over the weeks, testimonies were given on answered prayers and all praised the Lord for them.

Promptly, at the end of one hour, the leader rose and ended the meeting with a closing prayer. The members filed quietly out of the buildings.

This move of the Holy Spirit is known as the Businessman’s Prayer Revival,  the Prayer Revival of 1857, or the Third Great Awakening. Few have heard of it today because there were no famous preachers or great preaching involved with it. It was strictly filled with earnest prayer by nameless men.

Yet, the results were greater than those of the First Great Awakening with John Wesley, George Whitefield, and Johnathan Edwards or the Second Great Awakening with Charles Finney and Lyman Beecher.

It is estimated that 6.6% of America converted to Christianity in the wake of this revival. Dwight L. Moody, the noted evangelist, and Fanny Crosby, the blind hymn composer, were two of the more notable converts.

A powerful revival, right? Somewhere between 1.5 million and 2 million were saved.

But yet this great revival did not detour America from plunging itself into a bloody Civil War which began in April, 1861. Total casualties of the war: 1,030,000 with 620, 000 dead soldiers. Based on 1860 census: 8% of all white males between the ages of 13 and 43 died in the war.

Did the war stop the revival?

Actually, no. The revival continued in army camps, especially in the Confederate Army where it was estimated that 150,000 soldiers were converted. They fought during the day and held prayer meetings at night.

If you check other revivals, you will soon discover that revivals seldom settled a nation’s problems. It changed people and they were enthused about God once again, but the nation’s problems still had to be worked out in one way or another.

So, if revival is not the total answer for America, what is?

(Continued in Part 2)

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9 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Uncategorized

9 responses to “Is Revival the Answer for America’s Problems?

  1. Just so everyone knows, I’d love to see revival take place in America. I’d go and join in. But as the soldiers said in Vietnam, “Praise the Lord and pass the ammo,” I’d still realize there would be work to do before America’s problems would be settled.

  2. Pingback: Run the Other Way « Did Jesus have a Facebook Page?

  3. Thanks for sharing that important and inspiring piece of history, Larry!

  4. Bill Sheridan,

    Thanks for your encouraging words.

  5. Larry, do remember awhile back when you just couldn’t write? Now look all that is pouring out of you. Love it and thank you for your obedience to Him. God bless you!

  6. Unfortunately, as with those in the “Church” today, many of these “believers” pushed for war to bring about what they thought God wanted instead of trusting prayer and His timing.
    As a result, literally millions of people’s lives were destroyed and hundreds of thousands were murdered in the War of Northern Aggression.
    Many many of these were also believers who cared not one iota about slavery but about the right of States to decide for themselves.
    Slavery was doomed economically. It could not have been sustained with the onset of the industrial revolution. Had the believers trusted Daddy we might not have the racism that is so endemic in our society still today.
    But the winners always write history from their point of view. To them Lincoln was a hero. To many of us who have actually looked beyond the “Lincoln Cult” he was evil incarnate.

  7. ephraiyim,

    Maybe much of what you say has a foundation of truth to it, but so what? God knew the Civil War was coming and the Businessman’s Revival did not stop it.

  8. A good while back, another blogger posted a poem. The following is part of that poem.

    Oh altar, tell me of the day
    When saints would tarry, weep and pray
    When you were drenched with holy tears
    As all the saints of God drew near

    Oh altar, you have long been dry
    Have we now no tears to cry?

    Liked the poem and your post.

    Hope your doing well. How are your e-books doing? Mine, as I suspected they might, have just become gifts to family and friends. The ones left from my first (which you by the way was the first to buy) I give to my guys at jail. I finally bit the bullet and paid to have my second one done. My order could come in today. I would like to send you one. This one is on me.

    You have a gift with your writing. I’m terrible about reading, but what I read of yours always amazes me. I know you will stay with it because it is just in us to write. Either God will lift us in due time or He wont. It is His to do with as He pleases.

    Send me your address if you don’t mind.

    Mike

  9. Mike,

    Thanks. So far, my books have not set the West Coast in a tizzy with their sales.

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