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The Blessings of Economic Panic

As September 2008 drew to a close, headlines screamed, “Stocks Plunge,” (New York Times), “Dark Monday,” and “Fear Grips Investors” (Chicago Tribune). Talk of another Great Depression and economic “cardiac arrest” filled the airwaves.

No doubt, these are sobering times, particularly for those who define heaven as material affluence and financial security. But for believers who count the nation’s spiritual health paramount, this scare may be a blessing in disguise.

In the fall of 1857, financial fears were rampant. “On the 14th of October . . . the extensive banking system of the United States of America collapsed . . .”1 “Shoe factories in new England closed their doors, and steel mills in Pennsylvania were out of work for months.”2 “On November 10th, crowds of riotous men assembled in Wall Street, threatening to force an entrance into the Treasury Building and Custom House to seize the $20,000,000 stored in the vaults.”3

The economy was near death, but God was very much alive. Through His servant, Jeremiah Lanphier, the Lord had begun a work on September 23. Having announced a noon prayer meeting at the Dutch Reformed Church on New York’s Fulton Street, he had only six takers that first day. The next week, 20 showed up, and the next, 30-40. Then, on the day of bank disaster, October 14, over 100 assembled at the church.4 Before long, thousands were meeting daily for prayer at various churches throughout the city. (For instance, 6,110 were counted on March 21, 1858.)5

Before the fires of revival cooled in 1858, city after city joined New Yorkers in noontime prayer. All told, over a million souls were added to the churches of America in this season of awakening.6

Who knows but that God will use the present fears to stir revival in the land. Whatever the Lord’s plans, surely His people should pray that not an ounce of the current anxiety would be wasted, but that God would use it all to turn the wayward and backslidden to Himself.


J. Edwin Orr, The Event of the Century: The 1857-1858 Awakening (Wheaton, IL: International Awakening, 1989), 14.


Ibid., 15.




Ibid, 54.


Ibid, 72.


Ibid., 327.