Why pray together? Why gather corporately for prayer? In addition to the biblical encouragement to pray together, history also shows us the power of gathering together in prayer.
The rose up in the 1500s when the Casquin tribe asked Spanish explorers to pray for rain. The explorers lifted up the cross of Jesus Christ and prayed for rain—and God answered miraculously. Today, 500 years later, we believe that God still answers prayers miraculously.
One of the most powerful examples of prayer affecting society comes from a small prayer gathering of businesspeople just like us: the Lanphier Revival. Their prayers sparked the largest revival in US history.
The Lanphier Revival Started with Prayer
In 1857, just a few years before the Civil War, the US experienced its worst economic depression up to that time. Businesses closed. Banks collapsed. Millions of people found themselves without jobs. The economic depression especially affected people in cities.
During the financial crisis, missionary Jeremiah Lanphier decided to hold prayer meetings. Formerly a businessman, Lanphier had begun working for the Dutch Reformed Church in New York City. In September 1958, Lanphier invited businessmen from all over New York City to gather at the church for a one-hour prayer meeting during their Wednesday lunch break. Although few people attended that first September meeting, Lanphier kept hosting the weekly meeting, and its numbers soon increased.
As the prayer meetings grew, the trend started spreading to other parts of New York City. All over the city, businessmen gathered in pockets of prayer. Then the prayer meetings spread to other cities such as Philadelphia, Chicago, and even Kansas City and beyond. These meetings became known as the Lanphier Revival, or the Businessman’s Revival. From those meetings, thousands of people came to Christ over the next year. Historian Nathan Finn writes, “By the time the revival ebbed in the fall of 1858, around 1 million Americans had converted and joined churches—almost all of them lived in cities.”
And the revival grew beyond the shores of America. Finn continues, “Between 1859 and 1861, the prayer revival spread to the British Isles, where it is estimated another 1 million people were converted.”
Though the revival is often overshadowed in history by the Civil War breaking out a few years later, it was a pivotal moment that altered our nation’s history and our world’s history. It likely prepared America’s citizens for the grueling war that loomed ahead. And it all started with one prayer meeting.
Prayer in the Kansas City Workplace
Kansas City hosts many wonderful prayer ministries, each one with a unique emphasis. Love KC focuses on equipping individuals to pray for their neighbors. Citywide Prayer brings pastors and leaders together in prayer. The International House of Prayer KC provides a 24-7 space of worship and prayer.
God’s Relay Race focuses prayer on the workplace, a key sphere of life. Most people spend half of their waking hours over a work career spanning forty-years or more—roughly half of their life. Such an all-encompassing time demand means that for many people, our workplaces are where we possibly spend our most productive, relationship-oriented hours. The great portion of our life given to the workplace makes it a crucial area to cover in prayer.
God’s Relay Race continues the legacy left by the 1923 Businessman’s Bible Class. It also continues in the spirit of the Businessman’s Revival of 1857-1861. History teaches us that we partner with God through prayer. Whether two people come together or fifty-two thousand, “Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few” (1 Samuel 14:6). A hundred years after the 1923 story, Kansas Citians still marvel at the event’s impact on our city. Perhaps God is giving us the chance to significantly partner with Him once again so that a hundred years from now, that generation will marvel as well as they feel the lingering impact of 2023.