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Reflections for the National day of Prayer (Part Two)

Second in a three-part series. Excerpts from the book How to Pastor and Live to Tell About It: Lessons from Nehemiah, a new release by Roberta Sarver.

Available at: https://How to Pastor and Live to Tell About It: Lessons from Nehemiah: Sarver, Roberta:


If you’ve never heard of the Cane Ridge revival in Kentucky, you’ve missed an important part of American church history. The backstory below helps us understand the significance of this unusual move of God, as people prayed about problems in their difficult culture.

A wave of settlers arrived in Kentucky in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Most were eager to acquire land. Unfortunately, others were eager to acquire lawless living. The western part of the state became a haven for outlaws and criminals. Murderers, horse thieves, and those dealing counterfeit money took over the area, with no one to enforce the laws.

The few Christians living in Kentucky at that time became alarmed at the low moral conditions in Logan County. Circuit-riding preacher James McGready challenged three tiny churches to fast and pray each Saturday night and Sunday morning as well as the third Saturday each month, asking God to send conviction of sin and genuine revival.

At first, conditions became worse. McGready coached them to keep praying.


The next year, pastors held a customary quarterly meeting in a clearing in the woods of Logan County. Amazingly, 10,000 people showed up! Lexington, the nearest town, had a population of only 1800. [iii] At that meeting, hardened criminals bowed their knees in repentance and cried to God for mercy. Prayer and fasting worked!

News of this great awakening spread like wildfire. In fact, it spread to Bourbon County, where Rev. Barton Stone urged his people to fast and pray like those in Logan County. The small band of Christians under Stone’s leadership agreed and began in earnest.

Around 1800, a year after the great move of God in Logan County, Pastor Stone scheduled a weekend camp meeting in the woods of Bourbon County. People were amazed when 25,000 settlers arrived, prepared to watch God move on sinners in answer to their prayers.

Scoffers came also, prepared to break up the meetings with drunken revelry.

God moved mightily in those services, in answer to the fervent prayer petitions of God’s people. Sinners fell to the ground, crying to God for mercy. And the outlaws who blasphemed and proudly claimed they would never partake in such tomfoolery, were stricken down with conviction as the words came out of their mouths. It’s noteworthy that this great move of God crossed denominational lines. Presbyterians, Methodists, and Baptists all rejoiced as the God of heaven answered prayer.

This second Great Awakening in America resulted in a remarkable change in Kentucky’s culture.

The area lost its reputation as an outlaw stronghold, as communities of believers flourished. Both the Baptist and Methodist memberships swelled to ten thousand people in the next few years. The Presbyterian church rolls also increased significantly.[iv]

Watch for tomorrow’s blog post, The Remarkable Hebrides Revival

[iii] Marshall, Peter, Manuel, David, From Sea to Shining Sea, Fleming H. Revell, 1986, p. 62

[iv] Ibid, p. 68


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