In 1857, America was experiencing very challenging times. “Wall Street” was on the verge of crashing only 20 years after the Financial Panic of 1837. There was also a great deal of political unrest, especially between the northern states and the southern states over state rights and slavery. This in turn was creating upheaval within the church, especially evangelical circles.
During this period, Jeremiah Lanphier, a New York businessman, sat in a small darkened room in the back of a church and prayed. His prayer was simple and yet profound: “Lord, what do you want me to do? God’s answer was just as clear, “The people should pray.” Lanphier was not the CEO of some powerful company or the pastor of some large church influence. His influence was limited at best, yet he organized a midday businessmen’s prayer meeting one block from Wall Street. He waited ten minutes after the meeting was scheduled to begin. No one came. He waited twenty minutes. Still no one had arrived. Finally, thirty minutes after the starting time, one person came . . . and by the end of the first meeting, six had come to pray.
Lanphier’s program wasn’t innovative or eye-catching in the least—read Scripture and pray. By the second meeting, twenty people showed up. Before long, the meetings began to overflow and weekly meetings turned into daily meetings. Within a few months there were twenty such midday prayer gatherings throughout the city. After six months, there were over 50,000 people gathering on a daily basis to pray! This movement of God spread to other large cities including Philadelphia and Chicago, and within one year, there were reportedly, one million people who came to faith in Christ. The significance of this is realized in the fact that the population in America at that time was only 30 million. God ignited the revival fires in our nation, but He used an ordinary businessperson named Jeremiah Lanphier to light the match.
1 Corinthians 1:27 reminds us that “God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong.” Translation: It’s not all about you, it’s all about Him. As we consider the state of our nation and the world, the problems seem overwhelming, if not impossible to turn around. What can we possibly do? Jesus answers clearly, “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.” (Luke 18:27) Are you willing to ask God “What do you want me to do?”