[b]The Role of Prayer in Spiritual Awakening[/b]
[i]by Dr. J. Edwin Orr[/i]
"There has never been a spiritual awakening in any country or locality that did not begin in united prayer." Dr. A. T. Pierson
In the wake of the American Revolution the country was in a moral slump. Out of a population of five million, 300,000 were confirmed drunkards. Women were afraid to go out at night for fear of assault. Bank robberies were a daily occurrence. A poll at Harvard revealed not ONE believer in the whole student body. The largest denomination-Methodists-were losing more members than they were gaining. Chief Justice of the United States, John Marshall said, "The church is too far gone ever to be redeemed."
God changed that situation through the concert of prayer. A Scottish Presbyterian minister in Edinburgh wrote a "Memorial," as he called it, pleading with the people of Scotland and elsewhere to unite in prayer for a revival of religion. He sent a copy to Jonathan Edwards in New England. That great theologian was so moved that he wrote a response which was published as a book entitled: A Humble Attempt to Promote Explicit Agreement and Visible Union of all God's People in Extraordinary Prayer For the Revival of Religion and the Advancement of Christ's Kingdom.
In 1794 when things were at their worst, a Baptist pastor named Isaac Baachus sent out a plea for prayer to ministers throughout the United States. Churches set aside the first Monday of each month to pray. Revival broke out in Connecticut, spread to Massachusetts, moved to Kentucky and Tennessee, then burst over North Carolina and South Carolina before sweeping the frontier.
Out of that second Great Awakening came the missionary movement, the abolition of slavery, popular education and so many social benefits, as well as evangelistic drive.
Conditions deteriorated in the middle of the 19th century. People were making money hand over fist, and turned their backs on God. But a man of prayer, Jeremiah Lanphier, advertised a prayer meeting in the North Dutch Reformed Church in Manhattan for September 23, 1857. Only six people attended. The following week there were 14, then 23. Then people decided to meet every day for prayer. By February 1858, every church and every public building in downtown New York was filled. Horace Greeley, the famous editor, sent a reporter racing around in a horse and buggy to see how many men were praying. In one hour he could only get to 12 meetings, but he counted 6,100 attending. The landslide of prayer had begun.
Ten thousand people a week were converted in New York City. The movement spread throughout New England. Church bells called people to prayer at 8 in the morning, 12 noon, and 6 in the evening. Baptists had so many converts, they had to cut a square in the ice to immerse new believers in the river.
That revival jumped the Atlantic to Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales, South Africa, and India. The effects of that revival were felt for 40 years.
At the turn of the 20th century people all around the world prayed that there might be another Great Awakening. In 1904 a 26 year-old Welsh coal miner named Evan Roberts listened to evangelist Seth Joshua preach at the college where Roberts was studying for the ministry. The students were so moved by Joshua they asked for permission to skip classes in order to hear more. Evan Roberts prayed with great agony, " Oh God, bend me." He couldn't concentrate on his studies and told the principal of his college, "I hear a voice that tells me I must go and speak to my own home church. Mr. Phillips, is that the voice of the devil or the voice of the Spirit?" Phillips answered wisely, "The devil never gives orders like that. You can have a week off."
Evan Roberts went back home and announced to his pastor, "I've come to preach." The pastor wasn't convinced, but told Roberts to attend a Monday prayer meeting. After the meeting the pastor said, "Our young brother thinks he has a message for you, if you care to wait." Evan Roberts told the 17 who stayed, "I have a message for you from God.
You must confess any known sin to God and put right any wrong done to man.
You must put away any doubtful habit out of your life.
You must obey the Spirit promptly.
Finally, you must confess your faith in Christ publicly."
All 17 people responded. The pastor was so pleased he had Roberts preach all that week and then a second week. Revival hit like a tidal wave over Wales. Thousands were converted. The social impact was astounding. Judges had no cases to try. When asked what they did with their time, the police said, "We have three men's quartets. If any church wants a quartet, they simply call the police station."
That revival reached beyond Great Britain to Scandanavia and Germany, Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Africa, India, Brazil, Mexico, and Chile.
WE MUST PRAY, then God will work. May God help us so to pray.
"When God intends great mercy for His people,
He first of all sets them praying." Matthew Henry
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon