Seasons of revival are often birthed in a moment of divine convergence—When God brings His praying people together, under the right circumstances, at just the right time. In the latter part of the 19th Century there was a revival campaign in New York that coincided with a special day of fasting and prayer for colleges. This unplanned convergence quickened a widespread revival. Some believe this revival gave rise to a prayer movement that eventually helped prepare the way for the 1857-1858 Prayer Revival in New York City. This is the story of how a whole city and region was awakened by a revival convergence between Charles G. Finney and a handful of praying students on the Collegiate Day of Prayer.
At the close of 1855 Charles G. Finney was invited to Rochester, New York to conduct a revival campaign. He had already been instrumental in two powerful revivals in Rochester and this was his third invitation to the City. At first he was hesitant but eventually a group of intercessors and key leaders in the city persuaded him to come. “In the latter part of 1855 a few souls in Rochester wrestled in prayer until they prevailed. They sent a most urgent invitation to Finney to labor in the city. He was somewhat reluctant to go. The brother who had invited him said in great faith, ‘The Lord is going to send you to Rochester, and you will go to Rochester this winter, and we shall have a great revival.’”
After arriving, Finney was fully convinced that he was in the right place at just the right time. In fact, Finney’s third visit to Rochester proved to be one of his most fruitful. He stayed all the way through the winter and didn’t leave until the spring of 1856. The revivals in Rochester were definitely the most powerful of Charles Finney’s ministry. “Again, as in the other two revivals in Rochester, the Spirit moved from the higher classes of society and then spread generally to all citizens. Many attorneys were converted. The merchants often assigned half of their staff to attend the daytime services one day and the other half the next. The revival became the absorbing topic of conversation in banks, stores, and along the streets. In each of Finney’s previous revivals in Rochester, God had brought about large numbers of conversions, but this time there were more than ever. A special day of fasting and prayer for the colleges was held on February 28, 1856. Most of the students—eighty-five percent—were converted.”
A local religious periodical noted the influence that The Day of Prayer for Colleges had on both Finney’s ministry and also on the University. The editor writes, “The institution (The University of Rochester founded by the Baptists in 1850) is now enjoying its full share in the great blessing with which God has visited our city. A few individuals from among the students, by attending the daily meetings held in the churches of the city, were hopefully brought to Christ early in the winter; but SINCE the day of fasting and prayer for Colleges [February 28], the University itself has become a new center of revival influence.”—The Genesee Evangelist.[3) The revival not only touched the college students, it also deeply impacted some of the faculty. The faculty fully participated in the revival along with the students at both local churches and on the campus. In fact, the first signs of revival started on the campus a few weeks before Finney even arrived. It appears that when Finney’s revival efforts converged with the student’s prayers on the Day of Prayer for Colleges, the revival in Rochester was suddenly accelerated. Revival is usually birthed through a Joel 2 convergence—A spiritual partnership between the older and younger generations that releases a fresh work of the Holy Spirit.
The revival steadily increased and touched every segment of the community, until it seemed that the whole city would be converted. So many railroad workers were converted that the Sunday train schedules had to be suspended so the employees could attend church services. Pastor J. H. Mclevaine of the First Presbyterian Church said that this was the most powerful work of grace he had ever witnessed. He also described the priority of the daily prayer meetings in the revival. He writes, “A prayer meeting was held every day at 10 o’clock, averaging from 800 to 1,000 attendance. The whole population of Rochester rocked as if the city had been shaken by an earthquake.”
“The revival spread in a remarkable way to the surrounding towns and villages. Reporters from two of the daily papers attended all the services and reported in detail the messages and sermons in their papers. People in other towns came by train to Rochester to attend. Morning prayer meetings began and continued for several years. These too were reported in the papers, and other towns began to have daily prayer meetings It is quite possible that the newspaper reports of the meetings were influential in preparing the way for the 1858 revival of the United Prayer Meetings. These meetings seemed to spring up spontaneously in New York City and then spread like wildfire across the country in the form of united noon prayer meetings”
The Rochester story reminds us that revival never comes through just one man or ministry. Though some are highly visible and others are hidden and unseen, revival comes through a convergence and blending of God’s family. Could this coming February 28th be our moment of revival convergence? We need to work and pray TOGETHER with other intercessors and ministries on campus, and then watch what God will do! God powerfully used the praying students of Rochester, and God can also powerfully use your prayers to impact your campus and community. Please join us on Thursday in ASKING for REVIVAL and AWAKENING on the Collegiate Day of Prayer.
—David Smithers The Life of Charles G. Finney by A. M. Hills  Revival Fire by Wesley Duewel  The Memoirs of Charles G. Finney  Charles G. Finney 1792-1875, Revivalist and Reformer by Keith J. Hardman  Revival Fire by Wesley Duewel