When we consider the word revival, specifically within the Christian faith, we think of a series of evangelistic meetings with the intention to increase interest in God.
If we look more closely, we notice that being revived is the act of being restored and renewed back to a former place. Similar words that are associated with being revived are reinvigorate, revitalize, refresh, restore, energize, rejuvenate, regenerate and stimulate.
Within the context of our spiritual life, we see that a personal revival is a positive experience that convicts us to rearrange our priorities in order to give God a higher place in our life. This stirring of the soul brings a fresh awareness and rekindles the desire to follow the Lord with a renewed zeal and deeper commitment.
If we once had a genuine and exciting relationship with God but now for some reason we have drifted away, our intimacy with him can be restored by humbling ourselves and calling upon him. We do not need to attend a church meeting in order to repent or draw closer to Christ; we just need a passion and determination to be with him.
Through the years, there have been some very powerful spiritual movements recorded in places other than America, such as China, Korea, India, Brazil, Nigeria and Indonesia. These movements have generated enthusiastic interest in Christ and the Bible and have helped spread the Gospel into areas where individuals were introduced to Christianity for the first time.
One such example of a rich outpouring of the Holy Spirit in this country was the New York City revival of 1857. Theologians and historians agree this revival changed the minds and hearts of many people and helped establish a spiritual awareness at a time when the awareness of God was declining. There are several names given to this manifestation — The Fulton Street Revival, Union prayer meeting, the Third Great Awakening and The Layman's Prayer Revival, just to name a few.
The years leading up to 1857 were defined by tremendous economic development as the United States was reaping a bountiful harvest of prosperity. As wealth became the focus, the desire and obsession were turning toward materialism. Unfortunately, the younger generation was growing up without a reverential respect for God and were also becoming captivated by the love of money.
With church attendance falling, many congregations moved out into the suburbs to accommodate their remaining members. However, one congregation in Manhattan decided to stay in the inner city and make themselves available to those who lived in the downtown areas. The church hired a man named Jeremiah Lanphier as a minister and missionary to lead this evangelistic vision; he proved to be a man of prayer and an effective and convincing speaker.
Lanphier had a burden for souls and immediately began to visit homes, distribute Bibles and tracts, and preach the Gospel. It was a slow start, but after finding peace in his personal prayer time, he began to sense that God was directing him to begin a daily time of prayer for all who felt the need to find some quiet time with the Lord. He advertised and invited men and women to slip into the church and focus on God and to call upon his mercy for a great spiritual awakening even if it was only for five minutes.
That very year, there was a terrible economic disaster that caused many people to lose their businesses. Banks closed, and more than 30,000 people lost their jobs in that city alone. There was also much tension over social issues as talk of a Civil War was growing stronger.
Before long, the prayer meetings had become so large the church could not hold the crowds, so new ones were started in other churches and public buildings around the city. According to eyewitnesses, within a few months it was estimated that more than 10,000 people were attending these daily gatherings.
It did not stop in New York, as a great wave of excitement began sweeping across the country in places like Cleveland, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Washington D.C. A simple prayer grew into a nationwide revival, which became one of the greatest spiritual movements since the reformation. It's estimated that in the period between 1858 and 1859, 1 million people were converted from a population of less than 30 million.
I am grateful for the promise in II Chronicles 7:14, and as many today have become distracted, we are once again in need of a spiritual awakening.
William F. Holland Jr. is a minister and chaplain based in Nicholasville, Kentucky. Read more at billyhollandministries.com.