NEW YORK CITY, 1857 — Jeremiah Lanphier opened the North Dutch Church on Fulton Street in the financial district of Manhattan for a prayer meeting. Six showed up a half-hour late. 14 came the next week. 23 after that. Then 40. Next, revival spread like wild fire.
Soon, this once meager weekly prayer meeting mushroomed to 10,000 people gathering for prayer daily. What would eventually become known as the Businessmen’s Revival saw 1 million converts throughout the United States, with countless others around the world.
What does it take to bring about revival?
D.L. Moody said “Every great movement of God can be traced to a kneeling figure.” That becomes evident when you begin looking more closely at other great revivals throughout history.
In the U.S. alone, the Great Awakening, the Civil War Revival, the Urban Revivals, and the Azusa Street Revival — all were preceded by prayer. The same has been true in countries like Ireland, Poland, China, South Africa, Columbia, and Cuba.
Today, another movement of God is stirring in Wilmore, Kentucky. What started as a few people staying late after a worship gathering on Wednesday, February 8, hasn’t stopped. Day and night, Asbury students and pilgrims from around the world have been worshiping and praying. And it shows no signs of slowing any time soon.
The New York Times has dubbed what’s happening at Asbury University as a “‘Woodstock’ for Christians,” but I’d like to counter that they have it backwards. Revivals like this have been happening for centuries, with far greater geographical and generational implications.
Woodstock was a flash in the pan compared to what the Holy Spirit does in the hearts of believers in a time like this.
The university reported 50,000 people from around the country have descended upon the chapel since those first students lingered to pray after a typical chapel service.
It’s typical for older generations — myself included — to fear for the faith of the younger generation. Year after year, surveys have only indicated that Christianity in America and the Western world is dwindling. And yet . . .
And yet here we are. An unprecedented, non-personality driven revival led by Generation Z. And at the center of it all: prayer.
Of course, this is nothing new. The Bible includes many examples of God moving powerfully through prayer as in Nehemiah 1:5-11 and several Acts passages (1:13-14, 2:1-4, 2:37-47, 8:5-8).
I spoke with Byron Paulus, founder of OneCry and CEO emeritus of Life Action Ministries, about revival on Haven Today in 2007. Here’s what he said then:
“Boy, when God births a genuine, authentic work of his Spirit, the generational impact is felt forever. Now the excitement of the revival can often times be just a few years. The first Great Awakening was longer, the second Great Awakening strung out over a period of a couple decades. But the longterm, eternal impact goes on forever.”
I’m not surprised to see him covering what’s happening in Asbury today:
This #asburyrevival is not new, in 1857-58 Revival there were not enough public buildings in NYC to hold everyone that wanted to pray. Imagine today, all across our nation, churches with people waiting to get inside. Simply to be in His manifest presence. #doitagain pic.twitter.com/Hl1UzDAcsI
— Byron Paulus (@ByronPaulus) February 19, 2023
A Call to Prayer
The message for you and me today? Pray vigilantly.
- Pray for the little town of Wilmore, Kentucky (population 6,000) as they take in a constant flood of pilgrims and spiritual seekers.
- Pray for the people touched by this revival as they return to their own communities.
- Pray for the churches receiving their own flood of baptisms and conversions as a result of this movement spreading.
- Pray for all who are looking on with skepticism. May the Spirit open their hearts to the possibility of another Great Awakening in our time.
- Pray that this movement of the Spirit will return the church to what it is ultimately meant to be. As Howard Snyder, a retired professor of Asbury Theological Seminary across the street says: “The people of God faithfully following Jesus.”
As you pray, perhaps you can ask others to join you. What might God do through the collective prayer of you and your community? You never know what sort of revitalization of faith in Jesus may come of it!
About the Author
As the leader of the Haven Ministries, Charles Morris is always thinking of ways to lead Christians and non-Christians to Christ—hence the familiar slogan, “Telling the great story … it’s all about Jesus.” A former secular journalist, Charles has worked for United Press International, and as a press secretary for two former U.S. senators. He and his wife, Janet, have authored several books, including Missing Jesus. Charles’ latest book is Fleeing ISIS, Finding Jesus: The Real Story of God At Work.
**Portions of this article were drawn from Haven’s March 2022 Anchor Devotional by Glen M. VanderKooi: Prayer and Revival.
What is revival? Should we expect it today?
This high quality film tells the true stories of how God has worked in revivals in the past. Journey through church history, from the Pentecost to present day. Go back in time to visit key places like England during the Reformation, America in 1734, Wales in the Evangelical Awakening, Northern Ireland in 1859, and the Scottish Hebrides in 1949.
Expert contributors expound key lessons we can learn for today about the means and instruction the Lord provides in his Word for seeking him. God has done mighty acts in the past, and he can do so again.
“Today, another movement of God is stirring in Wilmore, Kentucky….students and pilgrims from around the world have been worshiping and praying.”
The greater concern for me, is that you are identifying this as a “movement of God”. It would be profitable if you would direct your readers/listeners to the Bible,
to show them the examples of revival in scripture.
Profitable questions of these events would be to compare them to revivals found in God’s Word. Where is the thorough teaching of the gospel wherein is demanded repentance, faith in Christ, regeneration across multi denominations?
Why is this expression shown only in one denomination, and that which emphasizes the “spirit’s” work, over Jesus Christ, whom the true Spirit clearly demonstrated in scripture points to?
Examples in scripture show the work going outwards, as people are equipped with the gospel, and we see conversion outside the church. Why is this event showing people having to come to it?
Just concerned for your ministry, especially in our self-centered culture, to immediately label that this is of God? Are we also being careful to identify what is true vs false worship of our thrice Holy God? Is the demonstration of tongue/gibberish speaking and the performance of “casting out demons” a demonstrated movement of God?
By His grace alone,
Hi Michael. Thanks for communicating your concerns. I know our team sent Charles’ personal response to your original email today, shortly after you would have posted this comment. I’m also placing it here:
Thank you for writing to us about what is being called the “Asbury Revival” or now the “Asbury Outpouring”. Just like you, I have heard and read about the criticism around Asbury. I must admit, I was skeptical when I first started hearing about the events taking place at Asbury. I got to the point where I couldn’t ignore it any longer. So, I made a trip to Kentucky.
After five days in Wilmore, meeting with students, faculty, and administration, I must report that this event meets the criteria that the pastor and theologian Jonathan Edwards outlined as marks of a true revival:
Real repentance from sin
Change of life
Softness of heart to the scriptures
Preaching of the Bible with sound doctrine
Love … to God then others
The term revival can be defined in many ways and comes in many forms. It seems to always start by someone praying — like the Asbury Seminary students who started praying for revival in their own lives, in their school and beyond back in February 2019, long before what happened on February 8, 2023.
I know there have been reports of physical healing. This is not something I personally witnessed. What I do know is those who were praying for revival helped by leading prayer teams for those who came forward and their prayers were for repentance and salvation. They were not praying for signs and wonders, but for salvation in Jesus.
A work of the Holy Spirit is never meant to be used for hype but to point people back to Jesus.
True biblical revival is centrifugal — it starts on the inside and spreads out. Not the other way around. I’m encouraged that so many Generation Z students showed up from so many other schools and have taken spiritual renewal back to their home campuses. Rather than doubt and cast dispersions, my suggestion is to pray for renewal,revival in our own hearts first. Then ask the Lord to use that renewal for his glory.
To God be all glory — through the Father, through God the Son and through God the Holy Spirit.
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