Summary: Acts shows desperate prayers and their impact.
In 1857, NYC, business man, Jeremiah Lanphier became a missionary for the Dutch Reformed Church in downtown NYC. America had been prosperous and did not feel the need for God. However, a massive financial blow occurred and sent the country into a panic.
Burdened so by the need, Jeremiah Lanphier prayed and asked God, “LORD, what will you have me to do?” God gave him the idea to invite others to join him in a noonday prayer-meeting, to be held on Wednesdays once a week. He therefore distributed a handbill which described the specifics of the meetings. It ended with: “Come when you can; leave when you must.”
Accordingly at twelve noon, 23rd September, 1857 the church building door was opened and the faithful Lanphier took his seat to await the response to his invitation. For thirty minutes Lanphier was the only one there. Then, by 1230 six others joined him and they prayed until 1 PM. The following Wednesday there were forty intercessors.
Then it was decided to meet daily instead of weekly. By January, 1858, there were so many people attending the meetings that they had to meet simultaneously in three floors of the building. Within six months, ten thousand business men were gathering daily for prayer in New York; 4000 meeting in Pittsburg, 2 000 in Chicago, 4000 in Philadelphia; meetings were held in DC, Baltimore, Cincinnati, all the way to Mobile, AL. By May of 1858 50,000 had been converted in NYC. Whole cities were becoming followers of Jesus. It was estimated that for a few months 50,000 people per week became followers of Jesus. Within two years, a million converts were added to the American churches.
Undoubtedly the greatest revival in New York's colorful history was sweeping the city, and it was of such an order to make the whole nation curious. There was no fanaticism, no hysteria, simply an incredible movement of the people to pray.
This is a significant story – 1857-59 is the last undeniable sweeping movement of God that has happened across the USA – 160 years ago. This was called the “Fulton Street Revival” because that was its origin; ultimately called the Third Great Awakening. This Awakening spread to Great Britain (60% increase in believers); thousands more in Australia; NZ; South Africa; India; and increased missions to Africa.
• “No great spiritual awakening has begun anywhere in the world apart from united prayer – Christians persistently praying for revival.” – J. Edwin Orr
• When God moves, his people get desperate and passionate for HIM as revealed in Acts.
I. God Does the Unexpected
A. He Sends Jesus as “Savior”
1. Many forms of Salvation – illness; enemies; oppression; sin
B. He Works Through the Death, Burial, and Resurrection
1. 40 Days of appearances before ascension – Acts 1.9-11
2. 10 days of waiting before Pentecost – not sure what’s coming – Acts 1.8
3. They expect God to move
II. God’s People Resort to the Unexpected
A. They did not:
1. Form Focus Groups to Decide What to Do
2. Survey the Community to Discover What Would Attract People to Church
3. Look up the Community Statistics and Develop an Outreach Strategy
B. They Showed Up with a Passion for God to Move – Acts 1.12-14 (ESV)
12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away. 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
1. ONE Common Focus in verse 14 – Jesus’ statement in 1.8? Putting aside their comforts; their lives; personal interests and said, “I am all in, WHATEVER the LORD is going to do.”
2. What is our Focus? – Many things, even church things – Singing; sermon;
3. US churches have become about our comfort and the warm fuzzy worship experience
4. How much hunger is there for the presence and move of God?
5. Here is a scary thought: In US churches we can do church services with or without the presence of God – it has become a formula for us: 5 Steps of Salvation + 5 Acts of Worship = the Wrong Focus – those steps and acts focus on US, not on God
“Would early Christians recognize our brand of Christianity? We are blander, primarily intellectual; devoid of HS power that they regularly experienced; they believed in Christ’s word, expected the Spirit to do great things, and he came as promised. He will do the same for us today.” Spirit Rising by Jim Cymbala