History of prayer in Idaho Falls – Charles Barnes

Whatever you ask in My Name – Prayer in the History of Idaho Falls

While only God knows the full extent of the prayers of individuals and groups in Idaho Falls who have called out to Him throughout the history of our city, here is a sampling of prayer activities in the history Idaho Falls:

While I know of no direct tie between the founding of Eagle Rock and the revivals in our nation during the Civil War, I suspect that these awakenings provided a spiritual climate that influenced the first residents of this area. There are records that indicate that before there were any organized churches in Eagle Rock, early residents met in homes, businesses, and along the river for worship.

Rebecca Mitchell wrote of the dedication of the first church building in Eagle Rock in November 1884, “It was the beginning of a new era in the Snake River Valley when the bell rang out the hour for prayer.”

On the 4th of July celebrations in Idaho Falls in the 1890s, prayer was always part of the program.  For example, in the 1895 4th of July celebration, “A fervent, eloquent and appropriate prayer was then offered up by Rev. Henry Van Engelen.”

As churches began in the early decades of Idaho Falls, they nearly always held mid-week prayer meetings.  One church in their first few months held weekly prayer meetings but Sunday services only twice a month.  Another began with an all-night prayer meeting.

Most years from the 1890s into the 1940s, Idaho state governors, in accord with Presidential proclamations, declared Thanksgiving Day to be a day of prayer and thanksgiving, with the “prayer” part given equal prominence with “thanksgiving”.  Other public holidays that we now think of as secular had clear religious overtones, with churches sometimes holding special prayer services.

For several decades starting in the 1890s, and occasionally in later years, several churches in Idaho Falls had “Weeks of Prayer”, with prayer meetings or services every night during a week, usually the first week of January.

In 1908-1909 and again in the 1920s, Idaho Falls newspapers reported that prayer meetings at several churches were very well attended.  One church saw the attendance at their mid-week prayer meeting jump from 31 on March 21, 1923, to 60 the next week, and remain at that level the rest of the year.

For most years from 1928 into the 1940s, the mayor of Idaho Falls would proclaim a Day of Prayer to coincide with the World Day of Prayer, and a prayer service would be held which was organized by the United Council of Church Women, made up of representatives from most of the churches in town.

During both World Wars, there were many special prayer services and Days of Prayer in Idaho Falls. After 9/11/2001 there was a prayer gathering in front of the Bonneville County courthouse.

In 1950, pastors from five churches met every day for seven weeks to pray for revival in Idaho Falls.  Also during this period, pastors and laymen met together each Sunday afternoon for fellowship, prayer, testimonials, and worship.

Annual 24-hour praise and prayer services were held in Idaho Falls in the 1990s and through 2003.

In the early 1990s, some churches in Idaho Falls observed a 40-day period of prayer leading up to the National Day of Prayer in May.

Annually from 1994 to 2005, up to 27 Idaho Falls churches and groups participated in the Unity in the Community Prayer-a-thons, which were 24-hour prayer chains.  Forty-three churches and groups participated in these prayer chains.

How many of the blessings we now enjoy in Idaho Falls are due to God responding to the prayers of His people in the past?  How much do we need to persevere in prayer to see the changes that God desires in our nation and city?

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