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The Fulton St Prayer Meeting of 1857

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The Fulton St Prayer Meeting of 1857.

Jeremy Lamphier looked at the six men gathered in the rented hall on Fulton Street in New York City, and I suppose he wondered what could possibly come of it.

He had been hired as a lay missionary some months before by the Dutch Reformed Church in lower Manhattan to spearhead a visitation program to bring back a steadily declining membership.

His efforts, for the most part unfruitful. Parishioners were listless and unresponsive to his visits and the decline in attendance continued.

Undaunted, Mr. Lamphier rented the meeting hall and began to advertise a noontime prayer meeting, inviting all who would, to come.

America, in 1857, was in crisis. The political scene was in turmoil over the issue of slavery, the rumored secession of the Southern states, and the prospect of civil war. It was a specter of dread that covered the land like a dark cloud.

Crime had taken control of the cities of the East Coast, and after a period of calm and prosperity following the War of 1812 and the Second Great Awakening, living conditions were deteriorating. Poverty was everywhere, the failure of several banks and railroads were signaling economic chaos, and there was a desperation in the hearts of the people.

The Church, after the magnificent revivals at the beginning of the 19th century were once again becoming institutions of liberalism and empty tradition. In the 1840’s a much-publicized group had predicted the end of the world, and when it didn’t happen, amended its prediction. The second date passed and former followers of the group began to mock the church with such great bitterness that even those churches who had been opposed to the movement suffered ridicule and decline. Wednesday, from noon to one o' clock, was set aside in the consistory building on Fulton Street to give "merchants, mechanics, clerks, strangers and businessmen generally an opportunity to stop and call upon God

So on the 23rd of September 1857, with 6 men. The first person to join Lanphier was a half-hour late; several others came even later began to pray. The following week, twenty attended.

A few days later, the prestigious Bank of Philadelphia failed.

By the third week, forty were participating. By the fourth week, they decided to hold a meeting every workday. Within months, meetings were being held throughout the city; the movement soon spread to other U.S. cities from coast to coast. On October 10th, the Stock Market crashed and a financial panic ensued. Hundreds were now attending the Fulton Street Prayer meeting. The rules were simple, there was no “formal” leadership and the emphasis was on prayer. Anyone attending might pray or share aloud, or lead in a hymn, as long as they limited their address to five minutes.

By early spring, it is estimated there were thousands gathering at midday to pray in New York.

Other cities experienced a renewed interest in prayer, too. In Chicago, the Metropolitan Theater was filled every day with two thousand praying people. In Louisville, several thousand came to the Masonic Temple for prayer each morning. Two thousand assembled for daily prayer in Cleveland, and St. Louis churches were filled for months at a time. In many places tents were set up for prayer. The newly formed YMCA also played an important role in holding prayer meetings and spreading the revival throughout the country.

By May of 1858, according to secular newspaper reports, there were fifty thousand new converts to Christianity in New York alone. One paper reported that the New England area had been so profoundly impacted that in some towns, there could not be found one adult who did not profess Christ as their savior

Newspaper accounts of the movement circulated the globe, and prayer meetings were established all over the world, as far away as Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England, Europe, South Africa, India, Australia, and the Pacific islands.

Termed the Third Great Awakening, this prayer revival was the first revival beginning in the United States to have a global impact, and the first in which the media played such a role in its growth.

Could Jeremy Lamphier, in a small rented meeting hall on Fulton Street with six men, most of whom arrived late to the first meeting, ever possibly have conceived the far-reaching effects of his obedience to the prompting of the Holy Spirit to pray and keep praying? 

Bill of Direction

Observed the following rules:

Be prompt, commencing precisely at twelve o'clock.

The leader is not expected to exceed ten minutes in opening the meeting.

1st. Open the meeting by reading and singing three to five verses of a hymn.

2nd. Prayer.

3rd. Read a portion of Scripture.

4th. Say the meeting is now open for prayers and exhortations, observing particularly the rules overhead, inviting the brethren from abroad to take part in the services.

5th. Read but one request at a time?requiring a prayer to follow?such prayer to have special reference to same.

6th. In case of any suggestion or proposition by any person, say this is simply a prayer-meeting, and that they are out of order, and call on some brother to pray.

7th. Give out the closing hymn five minutes before one o'clock. Request the benediction from a clergyman, if one be present.

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