His name was Jeremiah Lanphier. The date was September 23, 1857. The location was New York City.

For days Lanphier had been handing out flyers about a time of prayer. He likely distributed more than twenty thousand flyers by himself.

He was a man under God’s conviction. He was desperate for a move of God, and he knew no human-powered system or organization could manufacture such a move.

So he prayed. And he called others to prayer as well.

Lanphier probably had great anticipation that many would show up at noon on September 27. The city had a population of one million. His flyers were likely seen by more than the original twenty thousand recipients of the flyers.

So he went to the borrowed upper room of a church and prayed and waited. For thirty minutes no one showed up. Then he heard the footsteps of a few coming to the prayer meeting. Six other people joined him.

Their numbers increased to fourteen the next week. Then twenty-three the next week. And the prayer meetings continued to grow.

The presence of God was so powerful. Those who were in the meetings decided to have the gatherings every day. And the numbers continued to increase. By winter of 1857 the prayer meetings were filling three large churches every day. Then, by March of 1858, every available public hall and church in New York City was filled every day.

Horace Greeley, the famous newspaper editor, sent a reporter to attempt to count the numbers at these meetings. He could only make it to six locations by horse and buggy in that one-hour period. He still counted sixty-one hundred people.

The prayer movement spread across the nation. At one season of this movement, ten thousand people were becoming believers each week. More than one scholar has estimated that one million people became followers of Christ through these prayer meetings.

A movement had begun.

Today I am praying for another movement of God.

Thom S. Rainer, I Will: Nine Traits of the Outwardly Focused Christian (Nashville: B&H, 2015).

I have just completed a series of lessons based on Thom Rainer’s book, I Will. They are available as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription service. For a medium-sized church, lesson subscriptions are only $10 per teacher per year. Lessons correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines as well as the International Standard Series.