The Layman’s Prayer Revival of 1858 -- By: John D. Hannah

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 134:533 (Jan 1977)
Article: The Layman’s Prayer Revival of 1858
Author: John D. Hannah


The Layman’s Prayer Revival of 1858

John D. Hannah

[John D. Hannah, Assistant Professor of Historical Theology, Dallas Theological Seminary.]

Of the six major eras1 of large ingatherings into the American churches, which are commonly designated as revivals,2 the Layman’s Prayer Revival is the most unique. The revival began prior to the great civil holocaust of 1861–1865, but continued unabated through the war and to the turn of the century. Estimates of conversions are listed between three hundred thousand and one million, over one hundred thousand alone in the Confederate Army.3 That, however, is not the most unique feature of this divine visitation.

The first startling feature was the dominance of lay leadership and the absence of the famous itinerant evangelists of previous eras.4

Even Charles G. Finney confessed that the revival put him in the shadows.5 A second feature was the almost universal lack of emotional excesses that so deeply characterized the Second Great Awakening and Finney’s era of revival technology.6 No cases of emotional convulsions were reported in the Layman’s Prayer Revival. Third was the use of large prayer meetings in the major cities, with hundreds of businessmen desiring to pray.7 A fourth feature was the mobilization of laity for house-to-house visitation and tract distribution.8 While intense revival became evident in New York City, it was preceded by the visitation of every home by the church. A fifth characteristic was the intensity of the revival. Though the revival began in the large metropolitan areas, it penetrated the smallest hamlet throughout the countryside.9 And sixth, the impact, of the revival was not limited to the United States but became a worldwide event, as reports from America occasioned deep stirrings in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England, and beyond.10 The influence of the revival circled the globe.

Charles Gardison Finney (1792–1875), America’s most significant antebellum revivalist, stated in his Memoirs that “this winter of 1857–58 will be remembered as the time when a great revival prevailed throughout all the Northern states.”11 Though this revival made...

You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
Click here to subscribe
visitor : : uid: ()