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The Great Awakening: 1735­1755 Some of America's greatest preachers served in this massive revival, which contributed mightily to our nation's founding decades afterward, including George Whitefield, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, Gilbert Tennant and David Brainard (missionary to the American Indians). Over this 20 year period, between 25,000 and 50,000 were added to the Church, a tremendous number of people for those colonial days (this represented more than a twofold increase). When one takes into account the fact that members were admitted only after a careful inspection of their testimony and Christian walk, this is even more astounding. It began with the Concert of Prayer. In response to a plea from some Scottish pastors, Jonathan Edwards called for a monthly gathering of prayer, unprecedentedly across denominational lines, for God to pour out His spirit and revive His people. The great awakening for which they prayed came, and it was indeed powerful. Two contemporary quotes illustrate the impact that this move of God had upon these early Americans. Benjamin Franklin witnessed Whitefield's second visit to Philadelphia and, though not a believer himself, was greatly impressed by what he saw: "The multitudes of all sects and denominations that attended his sermons were was wonderful to see the change so soon made in the manners of the inhabitants. From being thoughtless and indifferent about religion, it seemed as if all the world was growing religious; one could not walk through a town in an evening without hearing psalms sung in different families in every street. " Reverend Jonathan Parsons of Lyme, CT, wrote of the strong conviction the townspeople there had experienced during a powerful revival there: "Many had their countenances changed; their thoughts seemed to trouble them, so that their loins were loosed and their knees smote one against the other. Great numbers cried aloud in the anguish of their souls. Several stout men fell as though a cannon had been discharged and a ball made its way through their hearts."

The Second Great Awakening: 1795­1830 It seems hard to believe now, but in the decades immediately following the winning of our independence, the fledgling United States of America went into one of the most serious moral decays in the entire history of our country. There was something called the "Filthy Speech Movement." You can imagine what that was about. Drunkenness was so common that out of a population of 5 million, there were some 300,000 confirmed drunkards, 15,000 of which were dying each year of alcoholism. Perhaps even more shocking was what was happening at our colleges, such as Yale, Williams, Harvard, Dartmouth and Princeton. Bibles were burned. Students rioted. Communion services were mocked. There were so few Christians at the colleges that they had to meet secretly, keeping their minutes in code. As for the church buildings, they were deserted. Every denomination was rapidly disintegrating. Voltaire, the famous French deist philosopher, declared triumphantly, "Christianity will be forgotten in thirty years." It seemed so. However, a group of 23 New England pastors called for a resurgence of the Concerts of Prayer. By agreement, all denominations set aside the first Monday of each month to pray for God to move in His Church. It wasn't long before revival swept New England. Nowhere was affected more than the colleges, where irreligious behavior had dominated right up until the revival. At Yale, for example, a revival broke out in 1802 during the presidency of Timothy Dwight, Jonathan Edwards grandson, which transformed the entire student body. The great move of God which dominated New England also moved south, down to Kentucky and the Carolinas. Logan County, in western Kentucky, experienced a dramatic change. Back then, it was a wild place, lawless and totally immoral in character. It was, in fact, known as Rogues' Harbor. But God raised up a frontier preacher named James McGready, who held Concerts of Prayer, "weeping and mourning with the people of God." The great Kentucky revival started in the summer of 1800, with 11,000 people coming from near and far to a Communion service! Pastors from all denominations came in answer to McGready's call for help, and the so­called camp meetings were begun. Drawn to these meetings from as far away as Ohio and Tennessee, people would camp in tents for weeks at a time as the meetings continued. The 1801 Cane Ridge meeting gives one an idea of the kind of impact this revival had. Crowds there were estimated at between 10,000 and 25,000, an astounding number when one considers that the largest town in Kentucky then, Lexington, had less than 1800 people! This Second Great Awakening extended for more than 30 years, reaching New York State in the 1820s and 1830s, when Charles Finney labored in revival and evangelistic campaigns throughout western New York during this second phase of the awakening. It is said that some 500,000 people were converted under Finney's ministry alone! The impact of the Second Great Awakening was remarkable. The anti­slavery and temperance movements are directly traceable to it, as is public education and the establishment of Bible societies and Sunday schools. The whole modern missionary movement as it is understood today began in this period of revival, with the founding of numerous missions societies.

The 1857­1859 Revival It all began with one man: Jeremiah Lamphier, a layman who had a burden for his city, New York, especially the downtown area. He decided to hold a prayer meeting, and announced it by posting notices throughout the business district. Out of population of a million people, six people came! But the daily noontime prayer quickly grew; after several months time, thousands were joining together all over the city. The greatest revival ever to hit New York City had begun. Ten thousand people a week were committing their lives to Christ. It spread up the Hudson and down the Mohawk. New believers were even being baptized, in the middle of winter, in the rivers, holes being cut out of the ice! Up to Boston and down to Philadelphia the work of God traveled, and then west with the pioneers. It all happened, once again, through prayer. One unique feature of this revival was that people were converted during the prayer meetings, more so than at evangelistic meetings. The revival jumped the Atlantic, sweeping through Ulster, Wales, Scotland and England. Then, on into Europe it went, down to South Africa and over to southern India. In America alone, over one million were converted out of a population of 30 million. And, it led to the greatest missionary thrust up to that time in the history of the Church.

1904­1905 Revival This awakening, the last major revival, began across the ocean, in Wales. God used a man by the name of Evan Roberts to initiate the greatest awakening to occur in the 20th century. Wales was completely changed, almost overnight, as the revival took effect. Drunkenness was cut in half. The illegitimate birth rate dropped 44%. Crime was reduced to the point that many policemen were unemployed! Some 100,000 people were converted in Wales alone. From Wales, the revival spread to Great Britain and Norway, where the Parliament passed a special law to permit laymen to conduct Communion because the clergy couldn't keep up with the number of people being converted. This awakening was the most widespread in history, extending to Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Germany, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Africa, Brazil, Mexico and Chile. What about America? The revival did indeed cross over the Atlantic to our shores. In Atlantic City, for example, one of the more astounding impacts took place. Out of a population of 60,000 it is said that only 50 people remained unconverted! In Atlanta on Nov. 2, 1904, the entire city shut down-stores factories, offices, government. everything...even the saloons(!) for a day of united prayer for revival. January 20, 1905 was declared a Day of Prayer in Denver. At the request of the Mayor, all stores and schools were closed, and the legislature postponed. All the churches were filled, and 4 theatres were crowded with some 12,000 people for prayer. Truly, God was at work!

Postscript: I hope this encourages you to pray more for spiritual awakening in our day. The history of the Church gives us great hope! Our God reigns and He is the same God who brought these remarkable times of spiritual awakening that we read of. Could it happen again? We would do well to remember that they all began with prayer-in fact, with a movement of prayer. So let us diligently seek the face of God in prayer. A major revival is the greatest hope of our time.

Author of text Unknown
(this was distributed at a church, font bold and italics are unchanged from original)
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