The Fulton Street Prayer revival of 1857 also known as Laymen’s Prayer Revival or The Third Great Awakening was pioneered by Jeremiah Lanphier who was born to a farmer father and a stable woman for a mother. During the 1850s, Lanphier joined a church pastored by theologian and advocate of religious revival James Waddel Alexander. The Church moved towards the north twice and it was here a member of the nearby North Dutch Church (with an entrance on Fulton Street) offered Lanphier a position as lay missionary, Lamphier closed his business and began his work for the church on July 1, 1857.
Although Lanphier had no theological training, he was a remarkably good candidate for such a ministry as someone once described him as “tall, well made, with a remarkably pleasant, benevolent face; affectionate in his disposition and manner, possessed of indomitable energy and perseverance, having good musical attainments; gifted in prayer and exhortation to a remarkable degree; modest in his demeanor, ardent in his piety, sound in his judgment; having good common sense, a thorough knowledge of human nature.’’
THE PRAYER MEETINGS
Although Lanphier handed out tracts, reached out to businesses in the locality, encouraged children to attend Sunday school, and welcomed hotels to steer their guests to the church on Sunday, he noticed that all his time he spent praying gave him the most peace he’d ever had, and he set to start a noon prayer meeting once a week for businessmen, strategizing and hoping they would take advantage of their lunch time break to attend the prayer meetings.
“Wednesday prayer meeting from 12 to 1 o’clock. Stop 5, 10 or 20 minutes, or the whole time, as your time admits.” was what he wrote on the handbill he printed. The headline and first section of the handbill read as follows, with great emphasis on prayer: “How Often Should I Pray? As often as the language of prayer is in my heart; as often as I see my 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, earthly spirit. In prayer we leave the business of time for that of eternity, and intercourse with man for intercourse with God.”He put up a sign in front of the church on September 23, 1857 but no one came to the meeting, then Lanphier prayed by himself for half an hour. At 12:30, a man joined him in prayers. Four more joined in by the end of the hour. Twenty men joined the following week and another forty the week after.
AND REVIVAL SPREAD ACROSS THE LAND
By October, the prayer meetings had become a daily prayer meeting, and in January the next year, they outgrew the room and another room had to be used simultaneously. In February, a third room was added. By then, at least twenty noon prayer meetings were being held around the city. In March, Burton’s Theatre, capable of holding 3,000, was jammed for the prayer meetings as nearby churches and halls gave room to the eager crowd that numbered more than 6000 people.
By the end of March, every church and community hall was filled to capacity, and daily, ten thousand men were gathered for prayer.Newspapers and the Telegraph spread the news of this excitement in New York. Similar prayer meetings were held all across the country. It was estimated that probably as many as a million people were converted between 1858 and 1859, and that was then more than 3% of the United States population of less than thirty million, that would be the equivalent of 210 million people converting to follow Jesus in our present age. Isn’t that something? 10,000 conversions were recorded weekly in New York City for a season.Evangelist Dwight L. Moody, a little before his death, said of this revival “I would like before I go hence, to see the whole Church of God quickened as it was in 1857.What a revival this truly was! God is the same yesterday, today and forever, if He could do this then, He can do much more now but we have to give ourselves to prayers just like Jeremiah Lanphier and expect the last move of God on earth in a revival.