We celebrate our nation's political freedom every 4th of July. But as we look at the distresses - widening gap between the rich and poor, political polarization, sluggish economy resulting in joblessness, rising debt, growing immorality, corporate greed, the intolerance of the so-called tolerant - facing the USA today, can we say are we really free? Are we leveraging our freedom to love, to serve, to live, and to give?
In the 1850s, America was in distress. The stock market had crashed. Banks failed in Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. Railroads bankrupted. Factories shut down. Unemployment soared. The nation was divided over the slavery issue. Church growth was not keeping pace with population growth. Chicago had 70 churches and 100 brothels.
In 1857, a businessman in New York City named Jeremiah Lanphier was burdened about the problems he saw in his city and in his nation. He decided to invite others to join him in a noonday prayer-meeting, to be held on Wednesdays once a week. He put together a brochure:
• In Boston, police officers jaded by violence were shocked to see an outbreak of joy and goodwill among the uneducated and poor, black and white together.
• In Philadelphia, firefighters notorious for brawling opened their halls to evangelistic meetings.
• In Chicago, a newspaper reporter wrote, “[The revival] is upon the lips of Christians and unbelievers. There are few or no scoffers, few who sneer publicly and openly at what is transpiring.”
• In Atlanta, the chief of police maintained that the revival had so reduced the rate of crime that he could dispense with half his force.
• Pastors shared pulpits across denominational lines as they focused on what united them rather than on what divided them.
• 90 college revivals swept through American campuses like UC Berkeley, Dartmouth, Wisconsin, Wake Forest, and Oberlin between 1857 and 1859.
• Gambling saloons made their places available for prayer meetings.
• The governor of Ohio brought people to tears at a Columbus prayer meeting when he talked about his conversion to Christ.
• One spiritual leader wrote, “The best token I have seen of revival was our [church business] meeting. I was never at such a one. Brethren seemed flowing together in love…”
Out of their distress, Lanphier and tens of thousands of others called on the LORD. The LORD answered them and set them free.
Today, God is looking for more people like Jeremiah Lanphier who will see what America could be, who will pray, and who will believe God for a new kind of freedom. Will you be a Jeremiah Lanphier for today? Will you pray for the freedom that only a revival produced by God can bring? Will you call on the Lord for your family, for your ministry, for your business, for your church, for your city?