Isaac Backus (1724-1806) was a leading Baptist preacher during the era of the American Revolution who campaigned against state-established churches in New England.
He was influenced by the Great Awakening and the works of Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield. In her book Beyond the Veil: Entering into intimacy with God through Prayer. Alice Smith describes one of the greatest revivals in American history, she writes:
Before the Great Revival of 1800’s in America, the conditions of society were so deplorable in both secular and scared. There was unprecedented moral slump following the American Revolution (1775-1783).
Drunkenness was epidemic. Out of the population of 5 million, there were 300,000 confirmed drunkards. Profanity was of the most shocking kind. For the first time in the history of the American settlement, women were afraid to be out at night. Bank robberies were a daily occurrence.
In 1794, conditions reached their worst. A Baptist minister, Isaac Backus, had an encounter with the Holy Spirit. The impression left upon him was: There’s only one power on earth that commands the power of heaven –prayer.
He wrote “Plea for Prayer for Revival of Religion” and mailed it to ministers of every denomination in the United States, pleading to each pastor to set aside the first Monday as time to open his church all day in order to conduct extraordinary prayer for revival.
As a result, people humbled themselves and began to cry out to the Lord. God poured upon them the spirit of supplication. (Burning, believing, prevailing, persuading, persevering, intimate prayer always precedes a move of God)
The intercession of Backus and those who joined him fanned the fires of revival during 1798 in New England. Churches were unable to accommodate those inquiring about salvation. Multitudes were won to the Lord. By July 1800, unprecedented numbers began arriving in Cane Ridge, Kentucky.
A multitude estimated at 11,000 flocked to this camp meeting. (The largest city in Kentucky was Lexington, which had a population of only 1,800!) James McGready, a staid Presbyterian pastor from Pennsylvania, described the scene in the following words:
The cries of the distressed arose almost as aloud as [Methodist pastor] McGee’s voice. Here awakening and converting work was to be found in every part of the multitude and even some things strangely and wonderfully new to me. The Cane Ridge Camp Meeting of 1800 brought a change to the spiritual face of the United States. Thousands upon thousands of souls came into the Kingdom. One humble, desperate Baptist minister, Isaac Backus, had called for a national day of prayer for revival each week and from this humble call, revival swept across all denominational and racial barriers!
The steps of this revival according to Alice Smith were:
First, a solitary man had an encounter with the Holy Spirit
Second, a solitary man initiated the effort.
Third, a united prayer emphasis developed
Fourth, revival came.
- Alice Smith Beyond The Veil Entering into intimacy with God through prayer (Published by Renew Books 1996,1997)