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Biblical Revival – A Historical Reflection – Prayer at Hampden-Sydney College

A Biblical Revival:

Hampden-Sydney College Revival

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1 ESV)

A Forgotten Foundation

The times appeared to be cold indeed in 1787 at the small school of Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia. The Presbyterian Church had founded the college and by the late 1700’s had almost entirely forgotten its foundation. The students of Hampden-Sydney were deists at best and atheists at worst, who had been taken in by the trend towards viewing religion with disdain rejecting the Bible as the word of God. The president of the college was a man by the name of John Blair Smith. As a minister, he watched the decay of the spiritual nature of society and his school. To his dismay, he knew of only one student who professed faith in Christ.

John Blair Smith

Turning to Prayer

Being overwhelmed by this, John Blair Smith gathered his elders and the church membership in the fall of 1787 to begin special prayer for the school. Meanwhile, three students began to meet to discuss the moral decay of the school and pray. They began to meet secretly in the woods out of fear for the other students, but because of rain one day they moved inside the residence hall. The other students discovered Their activities and large raucous ensued.[1]

Smith prayers were begin answered. That evening he assembled the entire school to determine what had happened the previous night. When the students explained, they may have expected to discipline the students who were meeting in secret. Instead, he invited them to join him in his parlor; an invitation he extended to the entire school.

The Holy Spirit was moving among the school, and as the weeks drew on, the prayer meeting at Smith home grew to include more than half the school; to overflowing proportions.

Revival had come to Hampden and was spreading to other schools like Yale, Amhurst, Dartmouth, and Princeton.

John Blair Smith died in 1799 at the beginning of the Second Great Awakening. But not after being used in a mighty way through the power of prayer.


As Christian’s, we have the great pleasure to come to you in prayer. We know that your desire is to see souls saved. Give us the perseverance to continue in prayer, to gather together in corporate as well as private prayer as we talk with you about the need for revival in our present age.

[1]Al Baker, “Hampden-Sydney College: “What Hath God Wrought?,” banneroftruth.org, May 21, 2013, accessed September 5, 2016, https://banneroftruth.org/us/resources/articles/2013/hampden-sydney-college-what-hath-god-wrought/.