Sunday, June 26, 2011

It Only Takes a Spark

There is an atmosphere of gloom and pessimism in the US at present.  Barack Obama promised change –and his presidency has certainly brought about change: Unemployment figures are soaring, houses are being foreclosed at a record rate, the value of the American dollar is falling and biblical values are disintegrating. 

There was a similar situation in the 1850s.  At that time the glow of earlier religious awakenings had faded. America was prosperous and felt little need to call on God. But then the nation ran into problems and the self- sufficient complacency was swept away. Thousands of companies were forced to the wall as banks failed and railroads went into bankruptcy. Factories were shut down and vast numbers thrown out of their jobs. New York City alone had 30,000 unemployed. The hearts of people were shaken, while hunger and despair stared them in the face.

On July 1, 1857, a quiet and zealous businessman named Jeremiah Lanphier started his new job as a city missionary for a down-town New York church. The church had a dramatic fall in membership and Lanphier was appointed to set up a programme of visitation in the immediate neighborhood to get new people into the church.

Burdened by the need of the city, Jeremiah Lanphier decided to invite others to join him in a noonday prayer-meeting, to be held on Wednesdays once a week. He then distributed a rather wordy handbill which wasn’t exactly a high powered sales pitch for his new prayer event.  Nevertheless at twelve noon, September 23, 1857, the faithful Lanphier took his seat to await the response to his invitation. Five minutes went by. No one appeared. Ten minutes elapsed. Still no one came. Fifteen minutes passed. Lanphier was still alone. Twenty minutes; twenty-five; thirty; and then at 12.30 p.m., a step was heard on the stairs, and the first person appeared, then another, and another, and another, until six people were present, and the prayer meeting began.

On the following Wednesday, October 7th, there were forty intercessors. Interest was growing.  In the first week of October 1857, it was decided to hold the meeting daily instead of weekly.  Within six months, ten thousand businessmen were gathering daily for prayer in New York, and within two years, a million converts were added to the American churches.

Undoubtedly the greatest revival in New York's colourful history was sweeping the city, and it was impacting the whole nation. There was no fanaticism, no hysteria, simply an incredible movement of the Spirit of God that moved people to pray. 

It all started when one man had a vision and a burden to pray.  He wasn’t a great evangelist or preacher. He was just an ordinary Joe or Jeremiah. And God used him. Are you willing to be a Jeremiah Lanphier ? Maybe you are the spark to set the fire going. 

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