"Dedicated to strengthening and encouraging the Body of Christ."

Will God Visit Fulton Street Again?

By Dave Butts

    There is not much to see at the corner of Fulton, Williams and Ann Streets in New York City now. Just three blocks from the site of the former World Trade Center, there is nothing that identifies this intersection from any other – unless, of course, you know its history. It was 150 years ago today as I write (September 23, 2007), that God chose a small church that then sat at this intersection to begin a revival that swept through this nation and around the globe. Often known as the Third Great Awakening or the Layman’s Prayer Revival, the prayer meeting on September 23, 1857, began a spiritual fire that brought over one million people into the Kingdom of Christ, and saw sweeping cultural advances in spite of the Civil War being fought in the midst of it.

    Perhaps it is more accurate to say that God chose a man, rather than a church. His name was Jeremiah Lanphier. Formerly a businessman, Lanphier became a lay missionary, focusing his efforts on New York City. In 1857, unemployment was a major problem, with 30,000 men idle in New York City alone. The nation was facing a most serious crisis with sectional divisions over slavery and economic policy. The power of the Second Great Awakening had waned in most places and the Church seemed powerless to respond to the needs of the nation.

    At this critical point in history came a man with a simple idea: gather businessmen at noon to pray for the city and nation. Lanphier put up posters around the Financial District of New York City and then went to pray on September 23 at the appointed noon hour. For 20 minutes he prayed alone. Finally, five other men joined him. At the conclusion of the meeting, they encouraged him to do it again the next week. Twenty men joined in that following week. Within a few short weeks, thousands of businessmen and others were joining together to seek the face of God. The revival had begun!

    It was not a revival that featured great preachers. Ordinary Christians gathered around the nation to pray, read Scripture, sing, and testify. The power of their changed lives began drawing their unbelieving friends and co-workers to the Lord. Transformed lives began to seek solutions to the issues that faced society.

    Yesterday, a fellow prayer leader joined me as we stood at that historic intersection where God manifested Himself 150 years ago and prayed that God would do it again…in our day...in New York City…and around the globe. We walked and prayed and offered ourselves to the Lord as instruments in His hand. The Lord led us to pray Habakkuk 3:2 over that place and our nation: "Lord, I have heard of Your fame; I stand in awe of Your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy."

    We were in New York City for the express purpose of celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Fulton Street Revival and the beginnings of the Third Great Awakening. Over 1,000 Christians from around this nation gathered to worship, pray, be taught, and remember the wonderful ways God has blessed us as a nation in the past. Great Bible teachers such as Henry Blackaby, Jack Hayford and Tim Keller gave us strong scriptural hope for revival in our day. A return to the message of the Gospel of Christ, the critical nature of repentance and the power of worship were emphasized as necessary if we are to see a contemporary move of God in revival.

    Conference attendees joined with many New Yorkers on Saturday night for a powerful Concert of Prayer. On Sunday, many gathered in groups to prayer walk key historic sites in New York City. As all of the out-of-town guests return to their homes and own ministries, will it make a difference? Is there value in remembering a past move of God such as Fulton Street?

    The Biblical record certainly appears to validate such an effort. Many times the Israelites were told to recall their history and find courage and hope in past events. In Isaiah 63, the prophet draws upon the life of Moses as he asks God why He is not acting in the same way in their day as in the days of Moses. The great prayer for revival in Isaiah 64 is based on a longing for God to return to Israel as He had been with them in the past.

    Recounting the great acts of God in past revivals serves to stir the hearts of today’s believers with hope toward such an awakening in our day. The act of remembering is not merely indicating an interest in spiritual history. It is a method, and a biblical one at that, by which we can create a longing within the Church for a fresh encounter with the Living God. Anniversaries such as the 150th of Fulton Street create opportunities for the hope for revival to enter into the awareness of the Body of Christ.

    The hope and intent of all who plan, organize and celebrate such events is that the Church will be stirred to new levels of prayer, worship, and longing for the Presence of Christ in our midst. In a very real sense, each time we gather as the people of God for worship, it ought to serve to encourage us to seek His face and to long for His appearing.

    Would you join me in praying for a revival in the Church that will exceed anything that has occurred in the past? Will you ask God to visit Fulton Street again…and perhaps the street where you live as well?

    As you see how God has moved in history, will you pray with the prophet Habakkuk: "Lord, I have heard of Your fame; I stand in awe of Your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy" (Habakkuk 3:2).