Noon prayer meeting spread across nation in 1857

Published 3:04 am Saturday, September 29, 2018

The year was 1857 and America needed prayer. The country was in a spiritual, political and economic decline. Jeremiah Lanphier, a former merchant with no formal theological training, organized a noonday prayer meeting for businessmen in New York City.

Lanphier handed out printed notices to anyone who would take one, announcing a prayer meeting would be held on September 23, 1857, at noon on the third floor of the Fulton Street Church.

The story is told that the appointed time, no one had come. Lanphier “waited ten minutes, then ten more. The minute hand of his watch pointed to 12:30 when at last he heard a step on the stairs. One man came in, then another and another until there were six.” Though he was hoping more people would come, he recalled the Scripture, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).

“After a few minutes of prayer, the meeting was dismissed with the decision that another meeting would be held the following Wednesday.” The next prayer meeting, the room was filled.

In the following months, noonday prayer meetings spread all across the city. Many factories blew their lunch whistle at 11:55 a.m. to give workers time to rush to the nearest church to pray for an hour.

“Lawyers and physicians, merchants and clerks, bankers and brokers, manufacturers and mechanics, porters and messenger boys —all came,” according to eyewitness accounts. Reports say that churches of all denominations were filled with people praying on their lunch breaks.

The numbers of people praying grew to a daily attendance of 10,000 and later 25,000. The “Laymen’s Prayer Revival,” as it came to be called, eventually spread across the country to major cities like Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, and Los Angeles.

History records that the “Laymen’s Prayer Revival” lasted two years. Crime drastically declined. Published accounts recall that the power of prayer affected every area of business, as people began to be more honest and truthful.

John W. Basham, a Wesleyan pastor, once said, “Prayer is the God-given method for revival.” Charles Finney writes, “A revival may be expected when Christians have a spirit of prayer for a revival. That is, when they pray as if their hearts were set upon it.”

He goes on to say, “When the children of God pray fervently they are in the right inner condition to enable God to hear them. He was always prepared to bless those who have a right heart attitude…Prayer is in a chain of causes which lead to a revival, and is a cause which is as important as the proclamation of the truth.”

The Bible promises that the prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective (James 5:16). A scripture repeatedly mentioned when praying for revival is 2 Chronicles 7:14. The Bible instructs those who are called by His name, those who are Christians, to “humble themselves, and pray,” and seek His face, and turn from their wicked ways, then God will forgive our sin and heal our land.”


Jan White is an national award-winning religion columnist. She can be reached at