1781 Prayer Revival, England

December 25

St. Just Church where the Prayer Revival began

St. Just Church where the revival began in prayer

Forty years after the Great Awakening began, the fires of revival had died out in many places. Concerned leaders called the church to pray.

Jonathan Edwards in America had written a treatise called, A Humble Attempt to Promote Explicit Agreement and Visible Union of God’s People in Extraordinary Prayer for the Revival of Religion and the Advancement of Christ’s Kingdom. It was reprinted in both England and Scotland and was circulated widely.

John Erskine of Edinburgh persisted in urging prayer for revival through extensive correspondence around the world. He instigated widespread combined churches’ monthly prayer meetings for revival, called Concerts of Prayer.

Prayer Revival

Prayer groups for revival multiplied across Great Britain and America. For example, intercessors prayed early on Christmas morning, Tuesday, December 25, 1781, at St. Just Church in Cornwall from 3 a.m. until 9 a.m. and again on Christmas evening because the Spirit of God moved so strongly on them.

They continued praying together through January and February, and by March, 1782, they were praying regularly until midnight. Hundreds were converted at these prayer meetings. Revival stirred England again. Baptists, Methodists, and Anglicans joined together with others in these prayer meetings for revival.

John Wesley, then 83, visited the area in 1784 and wrote, ‘This country is all on fire and the flame is spreading from village to village” (Robinson 1992, 8).

The chapel originally built by George Whitefield in Tottenham Court Road in London was enlarged to seat 5,000 people and so became the largest church building in the world at that time.

Once again praying people and powerful preaching stirred England and North America, bringing a renewed emphasis on conversion and righteousness.

That eighteenth-century revival of holiness brought about a spiritual awakening in England and America. By the end of the century, the Methodists were established with 140,000 members, and other churches and Christians were being renewed.

It impacted England with social change and created the climate for political reform such as the abolition of slavery through the work of William Wilberforce, William Buxton, and others. John Howard and Elizabeth Fry led prison reform. Florence Nightingale founded modern nursing. Ashley Cooper, the Earl of Shaftesbury, reformed employment conditions.

The movement grew. William Carey, Andrew Fuller, John Sutcliffe, and other leaders began the Union of Prayer, calling Christians to pray together regularly for revival. By 1792, the year after John Wesley died, this Second Great Awakening (1792–1830) began to sweep Great Britain and America.

© Geoff Waugh. Used by permission.

For further research
The 2nd Great Awakening in America