Warren Wiersbe has a book entitled Something Happens When Churches Pray in which he describes the blessings of God on the praying early church in the book of Acts. Later in 1857, something happened when churches prayed. What happened was a national revival of prayer meetings.
Jeremiah Lanphier started a noon hour weekly prayer meeting at the Old Dutch North Church on Fulton Street in New York City on September 23, 1857. Not many came to the first three meetings. Then the great finanical collapse rocked our nation on October 14 which closed banks and put families out of work. This finanical crisis impacted the prayer meeting. Soon thousands were attending.
By January, twenty other daily prayer meetings were being attended by 10,000 businessmen. Newspapers started covering the revival with articles entitled “The Progress of the Revival.”
Here is an eyewitness account reported to the public:
We take our seat in the middle room, ten minutes before 12 o’clock. 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 he 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.” (The rules were no prayer or exhortation was to exceed five minutes so others would have an opportunity.)
All is now breathless attention. A tender solicitude spreads over all those upturned faces.
The chairman reads: “A son in North Carolina desires the fervent, effectual prayers of the righteous of this congregation for the immediate conversion of his mother in Connecticut.”
In an instant a father rises: “I wish to ask the prayers of this meeting for two sons and a daughter.” And he sits down and bursts into tears.
Two prayers in succession followed these requests—very fervent, very earnest.
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.
This request was read: “A praying wife requests the prayers of this meeting for her unconverted husband, that he may be converted and made an humble disciple of the Lord Jesus.” At once a stout, burly man arose and said, “I am that man. I have a godly, praying wife, and this request must be for me. I want you to pray for me.”
As soon as he sat down, another man got up and said, “I am that man. I have a praying wife. She prays for me. And now she asked you to pray for me. I am sure I am that man, and I want you to pray for me.”
Three, four or five or more arose and said, “We want you to pray for us too.”
Then came the closing hymn, the benediction, and the parting for twenty-three hours.
The prayer meeting revival lasted until 1860 and it is estimated 1 million were converted to Christ. What was unique about what became known The Fulton Street Revival was that the revival resulted from mainly lay people praying corporately.
Here is a model for us to consider in order that something supernatural might happen when our church prays.