I have recently been thinking about things that have caused what Christians often call revival.
Revival comes from the word “revive,” which means to bring back to life. We live in a dying culture. Many of us see that. Others of us are looking for answers as to why we live in a dying culture. Some of us are looking for answers that will revive our culture.
We need revival in our lives. The Bible and history show that there are two elements which always lead to revival. One is prayer. The other is Bible reading. True revival is always a back-to-the-Bible movement and a return to prayer.
But the concept of prayer is something that has been lost in our nation for a long time.
James C. Lanphier was a lay visitation worker at the Fulton Street Dutch Reformed Church in New York City during the mid-1800s. On Wednesday, Sept. 23, 1857, he opened the chapel behind the church for a 12 p.m. prayer meeting. No one arrived until 12:30 p.m.
By the time the meeting finished at 1 p.m., only six people had attended. Twenty people showed up the next week. Forty people the week after that. Those prayer meetings grew so much that Mr. Lanphier began holding them daily. Soon enough New York churches were packed with praying businessmen.
God changes lives through prayer. Prayer had swept America so thoroughly that these meetings became popular in all of America’s major cities. People would sometimes stop praying and lead in singing a song to God. Prayer meeting news was making the pages of American newspapers like the New York Tribune.
Bars were converted into prayer houses and dumping out their alcohol on the streets. People were turning their lives around for God. And men like Dwight L. Moody were called to be powerful preachers who changed American history.
The amazing reality of these prayer meetings is that they came during an integral junction in American history. These prayer meetings swept the nation right before the Civil War. It was as if God were preparing the American people for one of its greatest trials.
Wall Street crashed on Oct. 12, 1857. People in America were living in unsettling times. And they did not have answers for all the problems they were facing, according to David O. Beale in “In Pursuit of Purity: American Fundamentalism Since 1850,” pages 14–15.
That is the beauty of prayer. You can pray to God in the good times and the bad times. You can confess your deepest and darkest secrets and ask him for the answers. God is the God who listens even when it feels like he is not listening.
The Bible teaches us a lot about prayer. The Bible teaches that God will not answer your prayers if you are not praying them. That is the point. The beauty of prayer is that prayer acknowledges that you and I do not have all the answers. But God does have all the answers.
The First Baptist Church in Perry, Iowa, holds a prayer meeting at 7 p.m. every Wednesday. Come and pray with us. You don’t even have to pray out loud if you do not want to. Prayer is vital if you want God to work in your life. And we want to pray with you.
The Rev. Andrés Reyes is pastor of the First Baptist Church in Perry.