The Haystack Prayer Meeting In-Depth, written for 100th Anniversary in 1906

The Haystack Prayer Meeting In-Depth, written for 100th Anniversary in 1906

This is a reprint of The Haystack Prayer Meeting. It was written by Edward Warren Capen, PH.D. president of the American Board of Commission­ers for Foreign Missions, now Global Ministries, and published as one of the 1906 Envelope Series. Subscribers paid 10 cents per year for the series.

PLEASE NOTE:  This piece was written in 1906 and therefore reflects the language of that time.

One hundred years ago there might have been seen on a late July or early August afternoon in Sloane’s meadow near the Hoosac River in Williamstown, Mass., two piles of hay. The adjoining maple grove still stands, but the hay­stacks perished long ago. Nevertheless, the site of the northern one is marked by a monument surmounted by a globe and inscribed with these words, above and below a haystack carved out of the marble:

The Field is the World
The Birthplace 0f
American Foreign Missions


And so long as the monument stands the friends of missions will visit with reverence the spot where live young men, hardly more than boys, prayed the American Board into existence. Who were these Williams College students? What did they do at this spot? What resulted from their prayer meeting? Before considering these questions an answer must be given to the query: How did Samuel J. Mills come to utter here those memorable words, “We can do it if we will”?

The haystack prayer meeting, insignificant in appearance, noble in purpose, sublime in the courage of its participants, and fraught with con­sequences momentous for the world, was but the breaking forth on a higher plane of the missionary spirit which had burned, now bright, now dim, upon these American shores for nearly two cen­turies. Great as was the service rendered by Mills and his associates from Williams and other col­leges, they were not the first, nor the only ones, inspired with a vision of world conquest for Christ.

  Part 1: Earliest Missionary Efforts
  Part 2: Brainerd and His Contemporaries
  Part 3: The Broader Vision
  Part 4: Foreign Work Proposed
  Part 5: Connecticut Missionary Society
  Part 6: Home Missionary Movement
  Part 7: English Missionary Awakening
  Part 8: Revivals in New England
  Part 9: Williamstown
  Part 10: Samuel J. Mills
  Part 11: The Haystack Meeting
  Part 12: The Brethren
  Part 13: American Board Organized