In 1857 Jeremiah Lanphier was at a crossroads in his life; he was a single, middle-aged businessman without children and family. Following his heart to reach the neediest around him, he put aside his regular business and began to work with the North Dutch Church in Manhattan as a lay missionary. At that time, there were 30,000 men idle on the streets of New York. Drunkenness was rampant, and the nation was divided by slavery. Ministering in the dark slums of Hell’s Kitchen, Lanphier poured himself into the lives of people who were homeless, helpless and hopeless. Month after month he went door to door sharing the Good News, distributing tracts, and holding Bible studies with whomever would listen.
Lanphier would begin each day going from office to office, house to house, and shop to shop; but by midday he was physically, emotionally and spiritually worn out. He discovered that, even as the body needs food, the soul and spirit need prayer. Lanphier realized his need and regularly returned to a room in the church Consistory building to cry out to God for spiritual strength. This fresh, personal experience of the power of prayer suggested to Lanphier that there might be others, especially those engaged in business, who might profit from time in prayer. He handed out some 20,000 flyers advertising the first noonday prayer meeting on September 23, 1857.
For the first thirty minutes he sat alone praying. Eventually, steps were heard coming up the staircase and another joined. Then another and another until Lanphier was joined by five men. The next Wednesday the six increased to twenty. The following week there were 40. Lanphier and the others then decided to meet daily, and within weeks thousands of business leaders were meeting for prayer each day. Before long over 100 churches and public meeting halls were filled with noonday prayer meetings. God moved so powerfully that similar prayer meetings sprang up around the nation. For a season there were 10,000 conversions to Christ each week in New York City, and it is estimated that nearly one million people across the U.S. were transformed during this incredible move of God.
One man’s obedience to prayer… began a revival… that transformed a nation.
Same story told by another person
New York 1857-1860
In September 1857, a man of prayer, Jeremiah Lanphier, started a businessmen’s prayer meeting in the upper room of the Dutch Reformed Church Consistory Building in Manhattan. In response to his advertisement, only six people out of a population of a million showed up. But the following week there were fourteen, and then twenty-three when it was decided to meet everyday for prayer. By late winter they were filling the Dutch Reformed Church, then the Methodist Church on John Street, then Trinity Episcopal Church on Broadway at Wall Street. In February and March of 1858, every church and public hall in down town New York was filled. Horace Greeley, the famous editor, sent a reporter with horse and buggy racing round the prayer meetings to see how many men were praying. In one hour he could get to only twelve meetings, but he counted 6,100 men attending.
Then a landslide of prayer began, which overflowed to the churches in the evenings. People began to be converted, ten thousand a week in New York City alone. The movement spread throughout New England, the church bells bringing people to prayer at eight in the morning, twelve noon, and six in the evening. The revival raced up the Hudson and down the Mohawk, where the Baptists, for example, had so many people to baptize that they went down to the river, cut a big hole in the ice, and baptized them in the cold water. When Baptists do that they are really on fire!