Luther Wishard

By Alicia Addison

Luther Wishard will forever more be famously known as the man who went to the Haystack Prayer Meeting monument and prayed, "Lord, do it again. Where water once flowed, let it flow again." In 1877, Luther Wishard became the first full-time staff member for the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA). He was a missionary candidate, but the YMCA asked him to stay and serve as secretary of the association. His job was to direct the YMCA's work with students in the U.S. colleges.

In 1878, Wishard for the first time heard about Samuel Mills and the College Societies which started the American Missionary Movement. Soon after he went to Williams College, inspired by the Haystack Prayer Movement. Before the monument, he surrendered himself to complete the task Samuel Mills had begun. He beautifully prayed, "Lord, do it again. Where water once flowed, let it flow again." He also prayed, "I am willing to go anywhere at any time to do anything for Jesus." Eighty years after the Haystack Prayer Movement started, Wishard revived the vision.

Even though Wishard desired to go overseas, he saw that he could make a great impact mobilizing students in the U.S. He wanted to see a movement of students going overseas and thus make an impact through thousands going rather than just himself.

Wishard continued to pray for a missionary awakening among college students, and finally in 1886 those prayers came to fruition. Along with Robert Wilder and John Mott, Wishard asked D.L. Moody to help sponsor a summer Bible conference. In 1886, at Mt. Hermon, Massachusetts, at a boys school, the conference lasted for 26 days and had 250 men from more than 96 colleges attend. At the end of the conference they had 100 men who signed a missionary declaration. In the next year more than 2,100 men and women volunteered for missionary service. In 1888, this movement was organized as the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions (SVM). YMCA and YWCA students, through the SVM, were put into local prayer and study groups for missions.

In 1888, Wishard and his wife started a touring countries to help universities overseas develop Christian. He did not want to establish YMCA's overseas because he wanted the movements to fit the situation of the local universities. They spent forty-five months traveling through countries such as Japan, China, Malaysia, India, Arabia, Persia, Turkey, and many more. Wishard spoke publicly to thousands of students, personally interviewed thousands of missionaries, and spoke to many businesses and governmental officials about whether it was the right time to launch evangelistic movements among students. This kind of work helped him prioritize the student workers needs and organize for American staff to come. When Wishard returned to the states, he formed the Foreign Department for the YMCA and YWMA. Over the next 50 years, this department sent around 400 laborers overseas to pioneer movements among students.

Wishard's prayer at the Haystack monument began a revival in missions that resulted in 20,000 missionaries being sent out over the next 50 years. Wishard was what could be called at trail blazer. He prayed and paved the way for student movements all over the world.

Sources: Gary, Jay. A Vision to Encompass the World, 1987. Olejarz, Mike. The Student Beginnings.