I'm in the Lord's Army
At the outset of the Civil War, a lot of mothers were very concerned about sending their innocent young sons into the army. The army was known for drunkenness, carousing, gambling and countless other vile devices and many mothers dreaded that their sons would fall prey to its temptations. However, after the Prayer Meeting Revival set in, that changed. There are many, many stories of mothers who, after praying for their boys for years and years, sent them to the army and received them back as stronger, more religious men who no longer attended worship because their family expected them to, but because they truly wanted to.
In his account of the revival, Reverend J. William Jones recounts a story of one such lad. The boy's mother was terrified that her son would go into the army an innocent boy and through its "school of vices" emerge a foul man, but the revival fires got hold of that boys heart. Here it is in Jones' own words.
"The surgeons gave us no hope, but God spared him to reach home and linger for over six months to illustrate how a Christian soldier could be patient under suffering, and how, when he came to die, a smile could reign within his heart. The camp had not proven to him a "school of vice," but on the contrary he had learned there the preciousness of his mother's Bible, and had gone with simple faith to her Savior. And as the last hour drew near he met death with calm resignation, said to the weeping loved ones who stood around: "I trust in Jesus and am not afraid to die." And left, in his triumphant deathas well as in the peaceful hours of his later life, the fullest assurance that he went to join his sainted mother -- for she had gone before, a few weeks prior to his death -- in that brighter, better home above, where "war's rude alarms" never disturb, and loved ones never part."
The great Prayer Meeting revival was not just in the north. However the Confederacy did not have the resources to employ as many chaplains and ministers as the north could. Great Christian generals like Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Leonidas Polk Lee were instrumental in the great revival as well and did everything they could to promote and encourage it. In fact, Jackson even went so far as to refrain from battle on the Sabbath if at all possible so that the men could attend worship. There were several other generals that made that same commitment during the war. This revival is often referred to as being led from 'the top down' because of the influence that the officers held over the men.
According to William Jones' documentation of the Great Revival, nearly every southern brigade was affected by this movement and approximately 10% of the soldiers accepted Christ in the Army of Northern Virginia. Tracts and Bibles were not easy to come by as there was a limited supply, but the men were hungry for them! They would pass around the tattered and worn Bibles that they did have and night after night the men would gather for prayer, worship, reading of the Scriptures and the preaching of the gospel. If the opportunity presented itself, they would baptize in a nearby brook or pond, regardless of how cold the water may be.
One remarkable thing about this revival, is that it manifested changed lives. This revival was not just an emotional show inspired by hard times, but it led to real repentance and devotion. We'll take a look at some of the individual stories in the following weeks.
During this great revival, an estimated 100,000 Confederate and between 100,000-200,000 Union soldiers accepted Christ as their Savior. That turns out to be about 10% of the men involved.
Another interesting note, is that it was during this time period that churches started forming all over the south, specifically those of the Baptist denomination. This explosion of churches is what started the formation of what is known today as the Bible Belt.
Tune in next week as we take a more personal look at the Prayer Meeting Revival. Subscribe to email updates and get the posts directly to your inbox!
A One Man Prayer Meeting
I had a very hard time picking the subject for this week's blog post, because there is such an abundance of stories to pick from! In America's history alone there are countless stories of the hand of Providence changing the situation miraculously. And we'll get to see some of those as we journey through HIStory together.
After lots of internal deliberation, I've decided to start with what I've been studying on. The American Civil War has long been my favorite era of history, and I am working on a novel set in that period, so along with that comes a lot of study and re-learning things I already knew from my school days.
One thing that most people don't know about the Civil War is the amazing revival that unfolded during that time. But this revival was much different than others because it was not started by great evangelists or preachers, but rather by a desperate people coming together to pray. That's why this revival has been coined as the Prayer Meeting Revival.
America in 1855 was in a very similar state to what we are today. We were on the point of despair, teetering on the ledge of financial and spiritual collapse. Banks failed, businesses faltered, and unemployment rates soared. But unlike today, Americans during 1855 turned Heavenward and pleaded with God for relief.
In New York, a minister by the name of Jeremiah C. Lanphier (pictured above) was struggling to keep his church from folding up entirely. He made great efforts to reach out to the community and invite them to church. Finally, on September 23, 1857 he placed a sign outside of his church which read: "Prayer Meeting from 12 to 1 o’clock -- stop 5, 10, or 20 minutes." At noon, the faithful minister started the prayer meeting with a church full of empty pews. Just when he thought he would be the only one in attendance, and that another one of his attempts had failed, people began to arrive. Six people were present for that first meeting. Those in attendance decided that they would like to come together again on Wednesday to pray. At the next meeting there was 20 people, at the next 40, at the next more until they were holding a prayer meeting every day with 3,000 people in attendance. One man starting a prayer meeting would develop into a mass national revival that saw over one million souls come to Christ, at a time when they needed Him most.
Next week we'll continue our study of the Prayer Meeting Revival.
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Amber Schamel was born in Littleton, CO and has traveled extensively throughout the United States, Europe, and the Holy Land. She was raised in a family of 11 children, home-schooled through education and currently works with their 10 family businesses. Amber is a multi-published author and currently lives with her family outside of Colorado Springs, CO..
(c) 2013 Amber Schamel