A Fulton Street Prayer Meeting
A glimpse into the "noon day prayer meeting movement" in New York City in 1857, a move of God which resulted in revival blessing which eventually swept across the nation and over to the British Isles.
We give you a brief outline of one meeting, not an unusual one, but such as hundreds of the meetings had been. The meetings varied in some particulars and the incidents of the meetings were always different and gave great effect to the spirit of the meeting.
Several took their seats in the prayer meeting room fifteen minutes before twelve, noon. All is quiet and silent. No talking, no whispering, all has the air of deep solemnity.
At ten minutes before twelve, businessmen began to come in rapidly. Ministers and laymen, all are seated together. There is no distinction except in respect to strangers. They are treated with attention and respect, and there are always some to see that they are comfortably seated.
Five minutes before twelve, the leader for the day comes in, and takes his seat in the desk. He is a businessman. He has never led before, and a new one will come in his place tomorrow. All of his movements are quick and rapid. He seems impressed with the importance of the moment, but seems of not the least importance himself. Two minutes to twelve, the room is packed to its utmost capacity. Many are standing in the hall unable to get in.
At twelve noon, precisely to a minute, the chairman rises and gives out that beautiful hymn, "Blow Ye the Trumpet, Blow."
The leader then calls on all to unite with him in prayer. His prayer is short, exactly to the point. He prays for the Holy Spirit, for the quickening of Christians, for the conversion of sinners here present at this very hour, for the spread of the revival, for the perishing thousands all around us.
Then he reads the seventeenth chapter of John. A word of comment while he stands with slips of paper in his hand. There is a little sea of upturned solemn faces. A deep stillness pervades the assembly. These are businessmen and they address themselves to the great business before them. Oh, what a moment!
"I will read four or five of these requests, and will call on some one to follow immediately in prayer, remembering these cases." He reads:
"A sister in Massachusetts desires prayer for a brother seventy years of age…."
"A brother, for a sister in Pennsylvania….”
"A mother who has attended these meetings and thinks she has been benefitted, desires prayer for a large family…."
"I judge," said the leader, "that this mother has lately found peace in believing."
"A gospel minister sends a very urgent request for four brothers to be remembered in prayer, that they may be converted, and that they, too, may become preachers of the glorious Gospel of the blessed God."
"From Philadelphia, for a brother and sister who are trying to be earnest seekers after the grace of God."
"Now," said the leader, "will someone lead in prayer?"
Prayer was offered by a clergyman. When this prayer was concluded, which was very short and in reference to the specific cases before the meeting, a gentleman arose in the back part of the room and begged the prayers of all present for himself and his sister. Prayer immediately followed. Then all sang one verse of a hymn.
A gentleman from St. Louis now arose and addressed the meeting with great animation.
"We have heard of this meeting by the mouth of those who have been here with you. We have heard of you through the religious and secular papers, and we have heard from you by means of the telegraph. Who would have thought of the telegraph as a channel of communication in regard to this great work of salvation?
"And yet, how did our hearts, away in St. Louis, rejoice to be told by telegraph of what the Lord was doing for you here in New York! Oh, what a bond of union was opened between us! I cannot tell how we are cheered and encouraged by what we hear from you every week. We look along the columns of our religious papers and especially of those which come from your city, and you cannot tell how eagerly we gather up the revival intelligence which comes from this meeting, and how we are encouraged by it.
"We rejoice at the high ground you have taken here, and as you elevate your standard, so other places will elevate theirs. The work of grace has been wonderful among us.... We want to hear from you, to hear from this meeting every week. We ask for a kindly remembrance in your prayers."
Another speaker followed. He was a fine looking gentleman. We know not who he was but took him to be an elderly merchant. He spoke of our having had signal answers to prayer and referred to some outstanding recent cases. He then spoke of the importance of praying for our rulers, our judges and all in authority.
He spoke especially of the gratifying fact that when President Buchanan was at the Bedford Springs, he attended daily upon the prayer meetings with very respectful attention. And why should we not pray, said he, for Mr. Buchanan? Why not send up our prayers to God that he may be a true Christian? When the righteous rule, the earth rejoices. When the wicked rule, the people mourn.
As he was taking his seat, the leader invited him to lead in prayer for the object he had named. He rose again and poured out a fervent prayer for President Buchanan by name in a manner of the utmost respect for him, his character and office; but for him as a sinner like ourselves, needing an interest in the atoning blood of Jesus Christ; for him as needing the wisdom that comes from above to guide and assist him in his arduous duties and under his great responsibilities; for him, whose evening days were coming and who needed a well-grounded hope of heaven. There was a remarkable fittingness in this prayer which touched a chord in every heart.
It is now twenty minutes to one p.m. How the moments fly! Time on swift, noiseless wings is passing.
The leader stands with slips of paper in his hand. These have been going up to the desk as the meeting progressed.
"I have several more of these to read," said he.
He reads: "A lady requests prayer for a profane father and his family."
"A church in Dutchess County, that they may not be passed by in this day of salvation."
"A church in Keene, New Hampshire, where a few mercy drops have fallen, asks prayer for the plentiful shower."
"Prayer for a young lady."
"Prayer for two brothers, sons of a deceased pastor of one of our Dutch Reformed churches."
"Prayer is asked of the Fulton Street prayer meeting by a daughter of a missionary who died upon a foreign shore; for a brother, unconverted, that he may become a Christian; and, if it be the will of God, that he may be prepared to take the place of his father in the ministerial office, and in the missionary work."
There was an earnest prayer for these by the gentleman from St. Louis. Then one verse of the hymn – "All hail the power of Jesus' name, Let angels prostrate fall." Oh what a power in that ever-precious name! All hearts here seem to feel it as they sing with united hearts and voices.
Time passes on apace, and we seem to have much yet to do. Several rise to speak. A Philadelphian gets the floor, and tells in a few brief words of the wonderful work of grace going on still in that city, now truly a sister city – a city of brotherly love. All the prayer meetings are filling up. God pours out His Spirit afresh. All are animated with new hope and zeal, expecting a great refreshing from on high.
Then he made some brief and impressive statements of the state of things in the prayer meetings at Jaynes' Hall, the hose houses, the big tent; the conversion of the firemen; the combination and earnestness of the ministry; the preaching of the Gospel in unusual places; the crowds that flock together to hear; the activity of the Young Men's Christian Association, and of the encouragement we all have from the accounts we receive from New York. "We go along with you," said the speaker.
A leading hardware merchant made some observations of a very earnest character, in regard to the kind of action to be adopted by the 50,000 professors of religion in this city, fitted to reach the 1,000,000 living in this city or who come here to do business from the surroundings or from abroad. The great point is for each one to take one individual or a family under his special supervision and endeavor to lead them to Christ.
Very brief prayer follows for all the objects.
A verse was sung, and a man arose and said: When a person presents a request for prayer, and that prayer is answered he felt it to be a duty to communicate the fact for the encouragement of the meeting. He said that he presented a request here some weeks ago that God would bless his efforts to establish a prayer meeting at a place in the country where he was about to spend a season.
"The first week we had about twenty in attendance, second week about thirty, third week about forty, and last week about one hundred. The meetings have all been very solemn and interesting. There was much deep emotion in the audience. Many were affected to tears, and the Holy Spirit was evidently operating on the hearts of the unconverted."
One said he felt timid on this manner of so many requests being sent here for prayer. "I am afraid of this," said he; "I am afraid of spiritual pride. I am afraid the Spirit of God will leave us. I have my misgivings about all this. Every request read here is a dagger to my heart."
Another rose and said, "O, do not discourage these requests for prayer! Where would my son have been had it not been for your prayers? I have followed him around the globe with mine. He recently came home from sea unconverted. I brought his case right here. I said, 'Men of Israel, help!' I wanted you to help pray for him. I knew you would not do anything for him but pray. God must do all the work. He must bow that stubborn will, and humble that proud heart.
"Oh, what cause of thankfulness and joy I have that God hears and answers prayer! That son is today a new creature in Christ Jesus as I humbly trust, and to God be all the glory. Do not feel tried with the coming of these requests for prayer. Oh, no! no! Let us rejoice that they do come.
"But let them pray who send them to this prayer meeting. Let the language of all the hearts in this assembly be, 'The power belongeth to God.' 'Turn us, O Lord, as the streams to the South.' Let us pray for all who ask us to pray – believing, trusting, hoping and humbling ourselves low before God."
– From The Half Can Never Be Told. The World Wide Revival Prayer Movement.