On Our Knees

  Today we're celebrating the National Day of Prayer at a time when many Americans are fearfully questioning what's happening in our culture and in the world. We have just witnessed a shocking tragedy in Littleton, Colorado. And as I speak, American bombers are flying over Kosovo and Belgrade, and American troops are staging on the borders of Yugoslavia. Many fear that the world will be plunged into another dreadful war. In my book Loving God, I tell the story of another time when Americans feared the future—and how a tremendous outpouring of prayer led to one of the greatest lay revivals in American history. The story begins in 1858. An economic crisis loomed on the horizon. One of the country's two major political parties, the Whigs, was dissolving over the slavery issue. Abolitionists had turned violent, and the Civil War was about to erupt. Society was in chaos, and there was a very real fear that this boisterous young country would not survive. It was under the cloud of these national traumas that a New York businessman named Jeremiah Lanphier began to pray with a handful of friends—and thereby began a revival that affected the Western world for half a century. In the beginning it was just a few people who met each week in the Old North Dutch Church in New York City. The weekly meeting soon turned into a daily one. Then other churches heard of Lanphier's group and began prayer meetings of their own. Within a few months, 10,000 people were gathering daily at noon for open prayer in the streets of New York. The impact was tremendous. Within 24 months, two million converts entered American churches. The revival spread up the Hudson River Valley into Canada and on to Chicago. Then it jumped the Atlantic to dance like fire across much of Europe, then on to South Africa and India. One of America's greatest revival historians, the late Dr. J. Edwin Orr, argued that the great revival begun by Lanphier is what prepared America to become a world power. And he wrote: "Whenever God is ready to do something new with His people, He always sets them to praying." Today most Christians recognize that our society is in tremendous crisis. In the wake of the Littleton tragedy, people are desperately asking a question that goes right to the very heart of the matter. Can the American experiment in ordered liberty survive? Can we keep peace without repression? It's so easy to get comfortable at home that we forget how much, moment by moment, day by day, we are dependent on God Almighty. Today, as we prepare for the exciting challenges of the new millennium, as we seek to restore our culture, we are in need of prayer as a Church and as a nation as we have been at few other times in our history. When we find Americans in shock over terrible events like Littleton, and fearful of the storm clouds gathering again in Europe, we ought to remind them that we've been through these things before. And with God's grace, there is a way out. How do you move a country gripped with fear? You move it on your knees. You move it through prayer.


Chuck Colson



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