Global Awakening Blog

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Greatness From Small Beginnings

photo of man standing alone on a mountain top

In the midst of unlikely surroundings, in the day of small beginnings, revival is birthed. Have we forgotten? Nothing is impossible for someone who believes.

Jeremiah Lanphier was a man beset by adversity. He lived during what’s become known as The Panic of 1857, a time when the stock market crashed and the USA was heading toward civil war. Jeremiah himself was virtually unknown, without influence or platform, yet his passion for prayer was unshaken.

At the time, the United States was in tremendous spiritual, political, and economic decline. Many people were disillusioned with spiritual matters because of preachers who had repeatedly predicted the end of the world in the 1840s. Agitation over slavery was breeding political unrest, and civil war seemed very near. By 1857, large financial panic hit. Banks had failed, railroads went bankrupt, factories closed, unemployment increased.

In lower Manhattan, a Dutch Reformed church was steadily losing members, largely because of population changes owing to immigration. Looking for help, they hired Jeremiah Lanphier, who was a layman, to try to reverse the trend with an active visitation program. Despite his visitation ministry, church members were not gathering and the small church continued to decline.

Unlikely surroundings. Small beginnings.

In a risky step of faith, Jeremiah rented the hall on Fulton street and began advertising prayer meetings. By the third week of Jeremiah’s advertising, his prayer meeting had only forty participants, yet the people asked to hold daily meetings. Something had started with this small group of believers.

Then, on October 10, the stock market crashed. Suddenly people began flocking by the thousands to these prayer meetings. Within just six months, 10,000 people were gathering daily for prayer in New York City alone. You see, obscurity is the seedbed for revival. In studying moves of God, we find a pattern of Him operating in an opposite manner to worldly expectations. We must remember that God works through the dynamics of Heaven, rather than through the mechanics of men.

Along with New York, many other places were being swept into the revival. Chicago’s Metropolitan Theater was being filled for prayer with 2,000 people daily, another group of 2,000 people were assembling for daily prayer in Cleveland. In St. Louis, churches were filled up for months at a time as people met and cried out to God.

What started as the Panic of 1857 became the Great Awakening of 1857.

In February, 1858, Gordon Bennett of the New York Herald gave extensive coverage to the prayer revival. Not to be outdone, the New York Tribune devoted an entire issue in April, 1858 to news of the revival. News of the revival traveled west by telegraph. This was the first revival in which the media played an important role.


In this revival, it was the lay people, not the ministers or church leaders, who led the momentum. It was prayer, rather than preaching, as the main focus. The meetings themselves were informal — any person could come up to pray, or speak, or lead the others in a song, or give a testimony (they held a five-minute limit for each speaker). The movement spread like wildfire and had outstanding fruit accompanying it.

Some of the fruit was the fact that all of the school classes became interested in salvation, thousands of backsliders returned to the Lord, conversions greatly increased, and they saw Christians desiring greater discipleship and a deeper instruction in truth.

Many families established daily devotions, and entire communities underwent a noticeable change in morals. Preaching, which in many places had become intellectual and lifeless, now concentrated on the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the power of the cross.

As James Buchanan of Scotland summarized, it was a time when “new spiritual life was imparted to the dead, and new spiritual health imparted to the living.”

Jeremiah Lanphier’s obscurity, lack of training, and lack of financial resources didn’t stop him. He was so enamored with Jesus that he prayed his way through obstacles, making the most of his season of life. Zechariah 4:10 tells us, “Who dares despise the day of small things, since the seven eyes of the LORD that range throughout the earth will rejoice when they see the chosen capstone in the hand of Zerubbabel?”. The phrase “small things” is particularly relevant to our journey with the Lord. God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. In this manner, we see a theme of great revivals and revivalists being raised up from obscurity.


  • As you read this story and others like it, allow the Lord to infuse hope and fresh expectancy within you for another powerful visitation in the midst of unlikely surroundings and small beginnings!
  • Where, in your own life, do you see scarcity? Perhaps that is a seedbed for an increased love for prayer. Perhaps you are in a day of small beginnings like Jeremiah. With human resources alone, it may be impossible, but with God, all things are possible.

— Brian Starley

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Brian Starley photographBrian’s deepest conviction is to make room for the presence of God, and to honor what He’s doing above all else. He desires to train others to abide in the place of deep intimacy with the Holy Spirit, and to equip the church for the operation of signs and wonders, in order that we may declare the fullness of the gospel with word and power. Brian is now an associate with Global Awakening, and you can learn more about him here →
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  • This commment is unpublished.
    A Pratt · 14 days ago
    "In this revival, it was the lay people, not the ministers or church leaders, who led the momentum."
    Praise God, this is what we are seeing in Burma, its lay people leading their friends and neighbors to Christ! Most of the traditional churches remain closed, but people are desparately searching for the hope that can only be found in Yeshua. 
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tope · 17 days ago
    Thank you for ignition of hope. God promised a great revival coming on the earth and this upcoming revival will usher in the second coming of our lord Jesus Christ.....No wonder you are led to share this story to wake all that are praying for revival up. We have been praying for the Revival and will continue to pray. We are charged by the Jeremiah story.  Revival is Now !!!
    Tope from Nigeria Africa.
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    Alejandro Gil · 17 days ago
    Thank you Brian. This reading in this morning Is something I needed so much. God bless U and may the Holy Spirit fill your spirit with tons of fresh oil 🙌🏻🔥.
    Greetings from Colombia 🇨🇴
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    marie riegle kinch · 19 days ago
    Thanks for sharing this.  I needed to read it at this time.  Good to know that obscurity is no barrier to God.

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    Jill Hingyi · 21 days ago
    Fascinating to read about this move of God I had never heard of previously (I live in UK), you have a gift as a revival historian, Brian!
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    Akeem · 23 days ago
    Love it. You are amazing brother! Such wisdom to keep pushing ahead for the more of God.
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    Katherine Babcock · 23 days ago
    This is making evaluate things. I will pray. Thank you. 
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    Donna Colon · 24 days ago
    Bless you Sir 

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    Carl Diener · 24 days ago
    Thanks for this story, in a few cases these things work out from small beginnings. My wife is going to the Greater Things in Oklahoma, I am not.  I am retired but i still work part time to make ends meet.  I am tapped out when it comes to revival.  I have been on Global trips to Brazil that i will never forget, but those days are gone.  The Lord bless you in your Ministry.  You are young and you believe in humility and humble beginnings , Randy is a good mentor.  You will do well
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Janice Antley · 24 days ago
    This is a wonderful and encouraging story! What's different about our current crisis and any other crisis in recent history is Satan realized that people gather in times of crisis. 911 is the perfect example. We all ran to the churches for comfort and support. We saw a major surge in attendance and prayer.

    However, so (brilliantly) evil is this newest plot, in that it was designed to divide us in ways we never imagined. Who would have ever guessed we'd find ourselves isolated in our homes and told we couldn't gather to worship and support each other. Wear a mask so we can't connect with people we pass. Fear each other! 

    In the beginning, we all thought Zoom meetings would make up for that, but as we've discovered, those leave us often feeling more isolated and unconnected... 

    So what's the answer to fight this new kind of evil? We all have to see this for what it is...Satan's desire to separate us and cause us fear. We don't worship the god of fear!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Milton parker · 24 days ago
    Praise God. Each of us as believers carries the mantel of revival. We are revivalists. We are indeed on the verge of the greatest revival the world has yet to see. Milton Parker Whiteville NC March 23, 2021.

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    Barry Hall · 24 days ago
    Brian, thanks for a very encouraging start to my day! I have been hoping and praying that the Holy Spirit will move in my church and in my community. Reading this has re-ignited my passion to see this happen. I had never heard of Jeremiah Lanphier before, hearing the account of how God used him is inspirational and has sparked something in my Spirit. I will never give up seeking and asking the Lord for Revival!
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    Apostle Chris wanyon · 24 days ago
    Greatly blessed and seriously trusting God Almighty for revival in Kenya Africa this year,just pray for me.
    Apostle Chris wanyonyi, Kenya
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    Joseph K · 24 days ago
    Thank you Brian for this excellent article. A few of us Global Students have begun an online worship and prayer time on Thursdays and already we have seen the Lord healing and minister deeply to wounded hearts. The word that the Lord gave us as we started this was "Do not despise the day of small beginnings"; I am therefore encouraged by this as I take it as a confirmation as to what the Lord has started to do and how He will cause it to blossom

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    Bob K · 24 days ago
    Thank you for the nudge. Amidst huge unrest globally, regionally, and very recently in my own family, the truth of the Gospel remains, He is still Father/King/God/Comforter. He is always the Inviting One. ‘Come’ He says. ‘Draw near’ He says. Moreover, the stirring is to be heeded. Prayer and asking for fuller revelation of what the stirring is will be important to my automatic ’yes’ response.
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    Jay · 24 days ago
    This is very encouraging. We just helped start a Healing Room at David's Tent, our family and one other goes. Ours does the worship for 4 hours, but it's exhausting as we also bring our son Fynn, who's vented and paralyzed. Been a couple months now and I think I've seen one person healed of a headache. Various other churchio politico issues, but, after reading your article about Jeremiah Lanphier, I will give it another month... be sure and write another excellent article before then! :D