By Paul Strand
CBNNews.com - This Sunday marks the 150th anniversary of one of the world's most unique revivals, and what some call America's last Great Awakening.
In the midst of a stock market crash similar to the one that hit in 1929, one businessman turned minister asked God what he should do about it.
"Jeremiah Lanphier in 1857 in the midst of financial devastation said 'Lord, what would you have me do?'" said Pastor Bruce Berliner, author of The Wall Street Revival.
And to demonstrate God's answer, Berliner took CBN News to Fulton and William Streets near the bottom of Manhattan, a crowded corner jammed with the throngs working on and near Wall Street.
But 150 years ago, all that was there was a small Reformed Dutch church, where Lanphier began a simple Wednesday noon-time prayer meeting. But that prayer time kicked off a movement leading to salvation for some two million people before it was over.
Although the Fulton Street Revival was centered in New York City, CBN News learned a lot about the event by visiting Pastor Ted Lavigne in Kissimmee, Florida.
Lavigne happens to own the world's largest collection of memorabilia from the revival -- including rare photos and portraits of Lanphier.
"Lanphier started praying, 'Lord, what do you want me to do?' And the Lord spoke to him and said 'Prayer'. And so he started a prayer meeting on a Wednesday, September 23, 1857", Lavigne said. "In the first half-hour, he was all alone, praying".
Six men finally showed, though. And then 14 camethe next week. Attendance steadily rose for a few weeks, but then, the movement literally exploded.
Berliner said, "And within a few months, over 10,000 people were getting saved a week in New York City".
"Noon time all over New York City, every building that could hold people had people praying", Lavigne said.
According to Berliner, downtown New York, the theater district, in hotels, people's apartments and any area that was available were filled with people praying. Then the movement began spreading across America.
"Imagine 30 million people lived in the United States at that time. One million got saved as a result of the prayer meetings", Lavigne said.
The revival penetrated deep into the South and had a profound effect during the Civil War when so many lost their lives. It even jumped overseas where another million people were saved.
Berliner said, "Over 100,000 Confederate soldiers got saved from the ripple effect of this revival. So that's an interesting point, as well as over two million people got saved on a worldwide basis".
Revivals have always started with prayer, but Berliner points out that this one was different because it had no great preachers or evangelists leading it.
"What made this revival unique was that there was no human effort involved. It was actually the presence of God. No preaching. People just showed up", he said.
What also amazes Berliner is that God a few years ago led him and two other businessmen/ministers to lead a new Wednesday noontime prayer meeting just three blocks from Fulton Street --and all three of these pastors were completely unaware at the time of the Fulton Street Revival
"I find it very interesting that...He's doing something here at the same location", Berliner said. "And other people around the country, unbeknownst to me, are doing the same thing. We did not cross notes - it's a manifestation of the presence of God".
But without great preaching during the Fulton Street Revival, what led so many people to salvation?
Lavigne said, "This prayer meeting revival brought conviction to America". He says it can happen again.
"God moves the same ways when the same conditions are met", He said. "In the first, second and third Great Awakening, people prayed. God moved".
Berliner warns people to keep an ear out for God now.
He said, "All I know is: today if you hear the voice of the Lord, do not harden your heart as the children of Israel did in the wilderness".