Have You Ever Heard of the Moravian Revival?

March 11, 2024

What is the most amazing prayer story you have ever heard? Whatever it is, I can top it. Below is the story of a 110-year prayer vigil that changed the world, and the way churches think about missions. It is unbelievable to me how few people know the story, and it is time Christians tell it again, not so much in word, but in deed. That is on our knees with head bowed, praying for God to send a great revival to our country.

In 1722, a small band of poor Moravians found their way to the land of Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf, a rich and pious nobleman of Saxony. He took pity on them and allowed them to settle on his property. They called their little community Herrnhut, which means “The Lord’s Watch.” During its first five years of existence, the Herrnhut settlement showed few signs of spiritual power, but instead argued often with each other. By the beginning of 1727, the community of about three hundred people was wracked by dissension and bickering. An unlikely site for revival! Things got so intolerable that Count Zinzendorf personally intervened, helping the townspeople draw up “The Brotherly Agreement”, which immediately calmed the town down. This occurred on May 12, 1727. To celebrate the peace that came over Herrnhut, the people gathered for worship the next day. During their worship service the Holy Spirit came powerfully upon the worshippers, and moved each to have great love for one another. The experience was so powerful that they next covenanted to enter into a 24/7 prayer vigil. This prayer vigil lasted for 110 years. Out of this prayer meeting the modern mission movement was born. The following account is just one of the stories that emerged from the hundreds of preachers and thousands of evangelists who spread out all over the world to seek and save the lost.

The Moravians had learned that the secret of loving the souls of men was found in loving the Savior of men. On October 8,1732, a Dutch ship left the Copenhagen harbor bound for the Danish West Indies. On board were the two first Moravian missionaries; John Leonard Dober, a potter, and David Nitschman, a carpenter. Both were skilled speakers and ready to sell themselves into slavery to reach the slaves of the West Indies. As the ship slipped away, they lifted up a cry that would one day become the rallying call for all Moravian missionaries, “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering.” The Moravian’s passion for souls was surpassed only by their passion for the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. (taken from watchword.org, keyword “Count Zinzendorf and the Moravians).

The power of their prayer vigil impacted the world in far reaching ways. Their story is intertwined with the lives and ministries of some of the most important church leaders in the Great Awakenings and revivals that transformed Western society in the eighteenth-century including John Wesley, William Carey and George Whitfield.

This story has inspired many prayer leaders and churches to join together for a great prayer vigil, praying 24 hours a day for seven days, for our community and country during Holy Week. We call ourselves the II Chronicles 7:14 Prayer Team, based on that verse which says, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

I learned that God gave them “three strands” around which they wove their lives, and these strands helped the Moravians become world-changers. The first strand was their relational unity, spiritual community, and sacrificial living all under the banner of Christ. Everything revolved around their faith in Jesus.

The second strand was the power of their persistent prayer produced a divine passion and zeal for missionary outreach to the lost. This was most dramatic when they sold themselves into slavery and traveled to the most desperate places imaginable.

The third strand was described by a motto that they lived by: “No one works unless someone prays.” This took the form of a corporate commitment to sustained prayer and ministry to the Lord. This prayer went on unbroken for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of each year for over 100 years!

Do you think the kind of prayer life exhibited by the Moravians could have an impact on our world in similar ways today? Have you ever prayed for a revival like the one described in Acts 2, which we now call Pentecost? Would you ever participate in an extended prayer vigil with others? How long could you stay committed? When revival comes I hope we will start another 100+ year prayer vigil. (To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles see, www.lagrangepres.org).