I’m sure if you believe in God and have for any length of time, you’ve probably experienced the frustration of praying for something without seeing the results you are hoping for. This experience seems to be a right of passage with God, a test that one must pass in order to get to the next level. Very often, God places a promise of something in our hearts long before the promise will be fulfilled.
So is the case of John Erskine of Edinburgh, Scotland. Erskine felt a prompting of God to pray for revival in 1744. He asked many of his friends to join him in a “Concert of Prayer” for the next two years. They prayed every Saturday evening and Sunday morning, as well as the first Tuesday of each new quarter, that God “would appear in His glory...by an abundant effusion of His Holy Spirit...to revive true religion in all parts of Christendom...and fill the whole earth with His glory.” Dutifully, they prayed, and they saw some effect, but not the sweeping moves of God that they hoped for. After a time, the Concerts of Prayer waned, leaving many to feel they’d had no effect.
Years passed. Life carried on. Tensions between Britain and the colonies intensified until the colonies declared independence. War broke out, and people’s focus centered on the crisis at hand. At the end of that conflict, the people of America found themselves far from God and in a state of moral decline. Across the ocean, the French Revolution was in full swing, bringing with it another crisis to keep people’s focus from seeking after God fully. Infidelity and rationalism grew rampant in Europe. The world seemed to be going bad all at once.
Yet God hadn’t forgotten the promise he gave John Erskine for revival. Once again in 1784—nearly forty years after the initial prompting—Erskine felt the stirring to pray for revival again. This time, he reprinted a call to revival prayer given by Jonathan Edwards, a key player in the Great Awakening of decades earlier. Because of Erskine’s efforts to distribute the booklet and call others to pray, many churches across all denominations, both in Britain and the U. S., agreed to institute Concerts of Prayer each Monday night. They continued this pattern for the next seven years.
In 1791, another central figure from the First Great Awakening, John Wesley, died. Even as churchgoers mourned his death, the stirrings of revival began to break out among the industrial towns of Yorkshire, England. Suddenly, church membership just among the Methodist denomination skyrocketed from 72,000 to nearly 250,000 across the next 20 years. Churches in Wales, Scotland, and Ireland became full—so full that they spilled over into open fields where more people could attend.
By 1794, America was sensing the spiritual shift, and twenty-five men in New England gathered to form a Concert of Prayer there. Led by Isaac Backus and Stephen Gano, these men distributed letters calling others to pray on the first Tuesday of each quarter. Within a year, revival broke out, and within four years, it had reached every state. Students attending colleges across the nation began to seek God in droves. In fact, Yale saw half their student body become converted to Christianity during the year of 1795.
Itinerant preachers, known as circuit-riders began to go into less populated or frontier areas and preach to those living in the distant locales. Camp meetings popped up in frontier areas, where residents of a wide region would come to a central area and camp for a week while attending meetings put on by the circuit-riding preacher. They would worship with hymns, hear sermons, and share communion.
Other outcomes of the revival were the inception of many missionary societies, both in Britain and America. Social reforms also took place. Slavery was abolished in Britain, and an abolition movement began in America. Prisons were reformed. Sunday Schools and benevolence institutions were started. Temperance societies were formed, and women’s rights and women’s suffrage became a hot topic of discussion.
By 1800, the awakening reached Switzerland, Scandinavia, and Germany, and before it waned in the 1840’s, it had reached central Europe, South Africa, India, and the Pacific Islands.
It’s your turn. Do you believe there will be another worldwide revival like either the First or Second Great awakenings? If so, do you expect to see it in your lifetime? Leave me a comment to be included in the drawing for my second release—The Convenient Bride Collection.
Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a pre-teen, when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed with a B.A. in writing, she has won five writing competitions and finaled in two other competitions. In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite—a full-time homemaker. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers and lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, teenaged son, and four fur children.