THE PANIC OF 1857
The following is an interesting, historical event taken from the book by Dr. William Grady:
With the panic of 1857 well underway, a tall, forty-eight-year-old Christian businessman by the name of Jeremiah C. Lanphier was hired as an urban missionary by the Fulton Street Dutch Reformed Church in New York City.
Mr. Lanphier, a personal convert of Charles G. Finney, promptly announced that on Wednesday, September 23rd, the upper room of the church’s Consistory Building would be open for a special noon hour prayer meeting. Although the event was widely promoted, only six people chose to attend out of a population of over a million. Of the six, one was a Baptist, one a Congregationalist, one a member of the Dutch Reformed Church, and one a Presbyterian. Undaunted, the quiet layman scheduled a second meeting for the following Wednesday and was encouraged by a larger turnout of twenty. When twice that number showed up on October 7th, it was agreed to begin meeting on a daily basis.
The timely crash of the New York Stock Exchange that same week helped drive the attendance figures higher. Within six months, 10,000 New Yorkers were assembling for daily prayer at twenty different locations. Facilities employed included firehouses, theaters, and even a few saloons.
As to the format that was followed, anyone could pray or share a word of testimony but had to limit his time to five minutes or less “in order to give all an opportunity.” Although well-known preachers frequented the services, the Fulton Street Prayer Revival was unique in that the primary leadership was provided by Spirit-filled laymen. There was no hysteria nor were there any unusual disturbances, just prayer.
Charles G. Finney said:
“There is such a general confidence in the prevalence of prayer, that the people very extensively seemed to prefer meeting for prayer to meeting for preaching. The general impression seemed to be, ‘We have had instruction until we are hardened. It is time for us to pray.’”