Monday, July 7, 2014
More lessons from the Fulton Street prayer meetings
2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
WE have already mentioned the initiative of Jeremiah Lanphier in starting a lunchtime prayer meeting for business people in the upper meeting room of the church he attended. The first such meeting, In September 1857, looked as if it would hardly attract anyone, but in the end a handful came before it was time to finish, representing the main congregations between them.
The meetings grew rapidly and spread, using a variety of locations. Church buildings came to be in short supply and other meeting places, such as theatres, were secured. The lunchtime meetings were led by lay leaders, who encouraged spontaneity and participation while keeping to the published guidelines as follows:
Commencing promptly at twelve o’clock, the leader should open the meeting, including reading and singing three to five verses of a hymn, praying for the meeting, reading a portion of Scripture and opening up to prayer requests all within 10 minutes. No controversy is allowed and in the case of any suggestion or proposition, the leader is to rule this out of order for a prayer meeting and direct someone to pray. Members are urged to pray briefly, and to pray in agreement with one another. The closing hymn is to be given out five minutes before one o’clock and the benediction requested from a clergyman, if one be present.
The tone was generally one of repentance and need of God – a hymn book later produced for these meetings had a substantial section under the heading ‘repentance’ – and participants would bring the names of people for salvation.
The agenda was simply and strictly prayer – prayer for salvation and for the Holy Spirit’s empowerment. Within months, those prayers were being answered with thousands coming to faith weekly: matching, one could say, the thousands who by now were attending and praying. “If My people… will humble themselves and pray…”