Friday, March 18, 2005

A Bright Moment in the RCA

150th Anniversary Celebration

Fulton Street Noontime Prayer Meeting

September 23, 2007

"Pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17, KJV)

The Fulton Street prayer revival (the spark for the Second Great Awakening in the United States) began September 23, 1857, in the consistory room of the North Dutch Reformed Church, just a few blocks from where the World Trade Centers once stood. It grew to include Christians from a variety of denominational backgrounds, and spread from one local church throughout the city and nation and into the world.

Jeremiah Calvin Lanphier was hired by the consistory of Marble Collegiate Church as a lay missionary in connection with the North Dutch Reformed Church. From his personal observations and experience, he felt it would be profitable to challenge "men engaged in active business to devote a portion of the time usually given to rest and refreshment at mid-day to devotional purposes." So Wednesday, from noon to one o' clock, was set aside in the consistory building on Fulton Street to give "merchants, mechanics, clerks, strangers and businessmen generally an opportunity to stop and call upon God amid the daily perplexities incident to their respective avocations."

The first meeting was held on the 23rd of September, 1857. The first person to join Lanphier was a half-hour late; several others came even later. Five denominations were represented. "Prayer and praise were offered." The following week twenty attended. The third week, there were forty. By the fourth week, they decided to hold a meeting every workday. Within months, meetings were being held throughout the city; the movement soon spread to other U.S. cities from coast to coast.

The agenda was simple: "the salvation of the soul." They would pray for the "souls" of family members, neighbors, and coworkers—by name. Others would join in praying in agreement. They prayed for salvation and praised God when it happened.

The absence of "oratory" (i.e., a speaker) and "argument" (theological discussion) made these meetings both unique and attractive. Four items distinguished these prayer meetings from others:

1) Spontaneity. With the exception of a patterned beginning, the meetings general conducted themselves. Almost everyone participated.

2) Their interdenominational nature. Leaders came from every evangelical faith: Baptists, Brethren, Congregationalists, Episcopalians, Friends, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Reformed. Issues and items which distinguished them were not discussed.

3) Promptness. The meeting started promptly at noon and closed promptly at one. Prayers were held accountable to the five-minute rule.

4) Their focus on prayer. The "agenda" was prayer—prayer for salvation and for the Holy Spirit's empowerment. No "business" was conducted.

Historians estimate that as many as one million people may have come into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as a result of this prayer.

The Prayer Meeting
The character and pattern of the Fulton Street prayer meeting was followed as it spread across the United States and beyond. Leaders were given a "bill of direction" and required to observe it strictly:

Please observe the following rules:
Be prompt, commencing precisely at twelve o'clock.
The leader is not expected to exceed ten minutes in opening the meeting.
1st. Open the meeting by reading and singing three to five verses of a hymn.
2nd. Prayer.
3rd. Read a portion of Scripture.
4th. Say the meeting is now open for prayers and exhortations, observing particularly the rules overhead, inviting the brethren from abroad to take part in the services.
5th. Read but one request at a time—requiring a prayer to follow—such prayer to have special reference to same.
6th. In case of any suggestion or proposition by any person, say this is simply a prayer-meeting, and that they are out of order, and call on some brother to pray.
7th. Give out the closing hymn five minutes before one o'clock. Request the benediction from a clergyman, if one be present.

A placard was hung on the wall in a prominent place, commanding the attention of the whole meeting:

Brethren are earnestly requested to adhere to the five-minute rule.
Prayers and exhortations not to exceed five minutes in order to give all an opportunity.
Not more than two consecutive prayers or exhortations.
No controverted points discussed.

The Dutch Church is the mother denomination of the present-day Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church in North America. The RCA and the CRCNA have mutually endorsed a request to have their denominations celebrate the 150th anniversary of the inception of the Fulton Street Noontime Prayer Meeting on Sunday, September 23, 2007. Since this noontime prayer meeting was from the very beginning a multi-denominational gathering, the RCA and CRCNA extend an invitation to the Denominational Prayer Leaders Network (DPLN) and its members to share in this celebration of what God has done through prayer, in anticipation that He will continue to bring revival.

That the Denominational Prayer Leaders Network endorse the September 23, 2007, celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Fulton Street Noontime Prayer Meeting and encourage its member denominations to participate in ways that promote prayer and revival through their denomination and congregations. (DPLN, approved January 25, 2005)


  • That churches, communities, and cities will use this commemoration as an opportunity to gather across denominational lines to pray together,
  • That churches and communities will encourage businessmen and women to set aside one noontime (lunch hour) each week to pray together.
  • That churches in business districts will open their doors for multi-denominational noontime prayer gatherings.
  • That these prayer groups will prioritize prayers for the lost, for the presence of God, and for the empowering of the Holy Spirit.
  • That major gatherings for prayer and celebration will be held in metropolitan areas.
  • That people will pray that God will use this anniversary to ignite the fire of revival.

Over the course of 2005 and 2006, Jonathan Brownson, minister for prayer in the Reformed Church in America, and Douglas Kamstra, prayer mobilizer for the Christian Reformed Church, will:

  • Encourage people, churches, and denominations to pray for this celebration—that God will anoint it by his Spirit and use it to bring revival.
  • Provide guides for setting up a noontime prayer meeting and training leaders, prayer guides for a noontime prayer meeting, and sample worship formats for the September 2007 anniversary. (Masters will be made available for distribution.)
  • Provide reproducible promotional materials to denominational and other ministry leaders.
  • Recruit additional prayer-ministry partners who will endorse this vision and encourage their members' participation. The goal is to make this a national, multi-denominational, multiethnic celebration of God.

During the 2006-2007 church year, we hope denominations and churches will initiate interdenominational noontime prayer meetings in their area through their businessmen and women.

Dr. Jonathan Brownson
Reformed Church in America
101 East 13th Street
Holland, MI 49423
(616) 392-8555, ext. 182

Dr. Douglas Kamstra
Christian Reformed Church in North America
2850 Kalamazoo Ave. SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49560
(616) 246-0762

"About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray" (Acts 10:9, NIV).

"About noon, O king, as I [Paul] was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions" (Acts 26:13, NIV).

Chambers, Talbot and Dutch Sheets. The New York City Noon Prayer Meeting. Wagner Publications, 2002 (originally published in 1858).

Chambers, Talbot. "The Prayers of a Generation: A Discourse Delivered in the Collegiate Church...September 23, 1887, being the Thirtieth Anniversary of the Daily Noon Prayer-Meeting."

Bakke, Robert. The Power of Extraordinary Prayer. Crossway Books, 2000.

Prime, Samuel. The Power of Prayer, revised edition. Banner of Truth, 1998.

Conant, William C. Narratives of Remarkable Conversions and Revival Incidents: Including a Review of Revivals...An Account of the Rise and Progress of the Great Awakening of 1857-8. Derby and Jackson, 1858.

Sacks, Cheryl. The Prayer-Saturated Church: A Comprehensive Handbook for Prayer Leaders. NavPress, 2004. 193-194.

Copyright © 2004 Reformed Church in America.

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