The Businessmen's Revival

I have been told by many older Christians that the most influential thing we can research as young Christians is the history of Revival. I have meant to put that wisdom to use, but until writing this blog I haven’t sat down to do it. Reading about the businessmen’s revival has been amazing, and also convicting.

This revival happened in New York City in 1857, and can be traced back to a businessman named Jeremiah Lanphier. Lanphier came to know the Lord in 1842, but continued to work his normal job. God gave Jeremiah His heart for the lost, and Jeremiah had a deep burden for the people around him to know God. In 1857, he decided to quit his job and change careers to pursue vocational ministry.

Jeremiah joined the staff of the North Dutch Reformed Church. He was given the task of going to the communities around the church to evangelize. After a few months, he decided he would start a prayer meeting that would meet every Wednesday from noon to one. He wanted to make it accessible to people that worked so he set the time for the typical lunch hours. He printed thousands of flyers, and passed them out around the city. Here’s what the flyers said:

How Often Shall I Pray?

        As often as the language of prayer is in my heart; as often as I see my need of help; as often as I feel the power of temptation; as often as I am made sensible of any spiritual declension or feel the aggression of a worldly spirit.

        In prayer we leave the business of time for that of eternity, and intercourse with men for intercourse with God.

        A day Prayer Meeting is held every Wednesday, from 12 to 1 o’clock, in the Consistory building in the rear of the North Dutch Church, corner of Fulton and William Streets (entrance from Fulton and Ann Streets).

        This meeting is intended to give merchants, mechanics, clerks, strangers and business
men generally an opportunity to stop and call upon God amid the perplexities incident to their respective avocations. It will continue for one hour; but it is also designed for those who may find it inconvenient to remain more than five or ten minutes, as well as for those who can spare the whole hour.


So on September 23, 1857, Jeremiah held the first prayer meeting. For the first 30 minutes, no one showed up, but for the last half hour, there were 6 people total. The second week, 20 people showed up and the third, 40. Because of the rapid growth of interest, Jeremiah decided to make the weekly prayer meeting a daily prayer meeting. Other churches joined in on this movement, and before you knew it, there were noon prayer meetings all over the city.

Apparently, the New York Times actually tried to count all of the people that gathered for these meetings, but they weren’t able to make it to all of them before the hour was up. However, it is estimated that 10,000 men were praying during this hour consistently throughout the city. Soon, churches started hosting meetings multiple times a day and these would last for hours at a time.

This movement that started as a way to pray for the people in the city far from God turned into an evangelical awakening. Churches all over the city not only saw new members, they saw people come to know the Lord for the first time. The Gothic Church in Brooklyn had 75 people pray to receive Jesus in January of 1858. And just like the prayer meeting’s humble beginning, this was only the start.

News about these meetings and this revival spread all over the country, and a lot of cities decided to follow suit. Prayer meetings popped up all over the country. So much so that, in some cities, business owners would agree to close down for the hours the meetings were taking place. They wanted to take part, they wanted their employees to take part, and they wanted potential customers to take part. What God did in Jeremiah Lanphier’s heart, He was doing in people’s hearts across the country. He was burdening people to pray for the lost, and He was showing up when they did.

It is reported that 1 million people, out of a US population that was only 30 million at the time, prayed to receive Jesus during this revival from 1857-1858. To put that into context for us, that would be like if just over 11 million people came to know Jesus between now and December of 2023. How crazy would that be? What would change? How different would our country look? I don’t know about you, but I’m also left with the question of why can’t this happen again?

There’s not a formula to make God do something like this, but why not start where Jeremiah Lanphier started? Why not have a prayer meeting for people far from God and see what happens? At the very minimum, we would be spending time in God’s presence for an hour, and we would get more of His heart for the lost. I don’t want to put limits on God, because I believe He can do greater things than the Businessmen’s Revival, but He did it once, so He can do it again. With that being said, I’m going to start praying for the lost every Thursday from 12-1, and after that I’m going to go on campus to share the Gospel from 1-3. And, to quote Jeremiah Lanphier, “It will continue for one hour; but it is also designed for those who may find it inconvenient to remain more than five or ten minutes, as well as for those who can spare the whole hour.”

If you want to learn more about this revival, and because I don’t want to plagiarize, I got all of the information for this blog from two resources:

https://www.dayandnight.org/businessmens_revival
http://vancechristie.com/tag/businessmens-revival/

Author | John Wesley

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