I asked Leigh O’Dell, one of our lawyers, to write the Parting Words for this issue. As expected, Leigh did an excellent job. I believe each of our readers will be blessed by reading it – I know that I was. Leigh, a dedicated follower of her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, has allowed God to speak through her.
Pray for Revival
The headlines in recent days have been littered with reports of revolution and war; soaring unemployment, speculation about the collapse of large financial institutions, the downgrade of the United States’ credit rating, and our enormous national debt; earthquakes and hurricanes; and the sexualization of our culture. In the midst of all of this, have you felt a bit overwhelmed? Or asked what in the world is going on? Is there hope?
There was another era in our nation’s history when, like now, our country was being shaken by financial crisis, looming conflict, and social unrest. In the 1850s, the years leading up to the Civil War, our country experienced a time of great tumult. The population was increasing but religious devotion was on the decline. Gang riots plagued New York City. Tension was mounting over the plight of the 4 million slaves in America, and in March 1857, the United States Supreme Court issued one the most shameful decisions in its history, the Dred Scott case which held that African American slaves could not be U.S. citizens. Churches were divided. The stock market crashed on October 10, 1857. Banks in Chicago, Philadelphia and Boston failed. A run on the banks in New York crippled the financial system. In Chicago during this time period, there were more brothels than churches by more than 30%. It was a dark period in our history.
In the midst of the overwhelming sense of fear and anxiety that pervaded our country at that time, Jeremiah Calvin Lanphier, a businessman turned local missionary, invited businessmen to pray together during their lunch break. On September 23, 1857, the first lunch-time prayer meeting took place – six people showed up and the first person to arrive was thirty minutes late. Though not a very encouraging beginning, Lanphier persisted. Each meeting consisted of prayer offered by individuals in attendance; there was no agenda, only a commitment to ask God to intervene in the lives of men and women for salvation and growth in Christ. The next week 22 businessmen participated; the next, thirty. Eventually, these meetings were held daily and grew in attendance to more than 2,500. What is even more amazing is that these prayer meetings of ordinary businessmen and lay persons spread not only throughout New York City, but throughout the country to Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, and other cities big and small. Eventually, thousands were meeting around the country for prayer.
In answer to these prayers, God poured out His Spirit, drawing hundreds of thousands to Himself for salvation and moving even more believers to repentance and a renewed relationship with Him. Gambling saloons were made available for prayer meetings. Atlanta’s Chief of Police testified that the revival had so reduced the crime rate that he could dispense with half his force. In New York, many brothels were closed. This return to devotion to Jesus resulted in dramatic changes in the spiritual and cultural landscape of our country. And, it started with ordinary people like you and me praying for repentance among followers of Jesus and for those that did not know Jesus to have a personal encounter with Him.
Does the revival of 1857-58 have any relevance to us today? I believe it does. Is there hope for our country and world? Yes! But our hope is not in a political party, economic prosperity, or social justice. Our only hope is in Jesus – His saving work on the cross and His grace poured out in our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit.
In the 1850s, God worked mightily when one unknown, previously ineffective local missionary asked, “Lord, what would you have me do?” Lanphier answered the Lord’s call, began to pray, and called others to pray. God worked in amazing ways.
Jesus is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He is all-powerful. The same Lord that moved in sweeping, miraculous ways in the 1850s can do the same today. No problem is too big for the Lord. No sin, other than lack of repentance, is so serious that it cannot be covered by the grace of Jesus. No country, no situation, no person is too far gone that they cannot be radically changed by the love of Christ. There is HOPE and His name is Jesus.
So what shall we do? I think 2 Chronicles 7:14 says it best, “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
The Lord is looking for humble, obedient, and available servants. Today, ask the Lord what He would have you do and answer His call. Begin to pray for revival, asking the Lord Jesus to forgive our sins and bring healing throughout our country and the world.
August 23, 2011
After reading what the Lord had to say through Leigh, it made me realize that we all must intensify our prayer efforts. In fact, I believe there is nothing more important any of us can do. The future of our nation depends on our following that which is stated in 2 Chronicles 7:14.
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