The Fulton Street Revival is one of the great unreported revivals of all time, some say. And 150 years later, Christians across New York are joining to rekindle a spiritual awakening throughout the nation.
Sunday marks the 150th anniversary of one of the most unique revivals that led the nation toward its Third Great Awakening in the midst of economic devastation and a nation divided over slavery.
The revival began with a middle-aged tradesman, Jeremiah Lanphier, who was left behind by a Dutch Reformed Church congregation that relocated from the corner of Fulton and William Streets to the north. With families moving out of the city, leaving a population of poor immigrants and laborers, the church wanted to keep a witness in the area. Lanphier was appointed to lead the mission in lower Manhattan.
At that time in 1857, 30,000 men were idle in the streets and unemployment and drunkenness were rampant, the Rev. Dr. Mac Pier, president of Concerts of Prayer of Greater New York, explained in a special video presentation marking the anniversary.
Lanphier walked the streets around his church and noticed businessmen he passed who had anxious appearances and worried expressions as the nation was standing on the brink of economic disaster, Fulton Street Revival historian Roy Fish described.
Months of knocking on doors and sharing the Gospel message didn't change much and left Lanphier worn out.
Realizing the need for prayer, Lanphier then began handing out thousands of flyers advertising the first noonday prayer meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 23. He sat alone for the first half hour but was soon joined by five other men. The following weeks, the Wednesday prayer meetings saw larger crowds and within three months there were prayer meetings all over the city and more than 50,000 people in New York City alone who paused at noon to pray.
The prayer revival soon spread across the nation and in about 18 months, a million people were converted to Jesus Christ, said Fish.
"If we had a revival like that today, it would mean the conversion of 10 million people," Fish pointed out.
The Fulton Street Revival is also dubbed "the Layman's Revival" by some as it was uniquely lay driven and had no leading preacher or other prominent leader.
"When we look back we really see that this was not a movement of great men or great women," said Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research. "This was a movement of a simple layman who was left behind by a relocating church."
A Citywide Prayer Meeting was scheduled to take place at the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn on Saturday involving churches across the state. The prayer meeting came in the middle of a three-day conference (Sept. 21-23) at the Hilton New York Hotel celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Fulton Street Revival. The conference features such speakers as Dr. Jack Hayford of The Church on the Way in California and Dr. Henry Blackaby of Blackaby Ministries International, and a historic tour visiting the site where the first prayer meeting began.
Hoping for revival, Blackaby said, "He (God) has done it before. My prayer is that we would be the kind of people through whom He could do it again."