The Prayer Meeting that Lasted 100 Years

I came across this article while working on some message preparation and background study on prayer. Thanks to the author, Leslie K. Tarr, for writing this powerful illustration of the link between prayer and mission.

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FACT: The Moravian Community of Herrnhut in Saxony, in 1727, commenced a round-the-clock “prayer watch” that continued nonstop for over a hundred years.

FACT: By 1791, 65 years after commencement of that prayer vigil, the small Moravian community had sent 300 missionaries to the ends of the earth.

Could it be that there is some relationship between those two facts? Is fervent intercession a basic component in world evangelization? The answer to both questions is surely an unqualified “yes.”

That heroic eighteenth-century evangelization thrust of the Moravians has not received the attention it deserves. But even less heralded than their missionary exploits is that hundred-year prayer meeting that sustained the fires of evangelism.

During its first five years of existence the Herrnhut settlement showed few signs of spiritual power. By the beginning of 1727 the community of about three hundred people was wracked by dissension and bickering. An unlikely site for revival!

Zinzendorf and others, however, covenanted to prayer and labor for revival. On May 12 revival came. Christians were aglow with new life and power, dissension vanished and unbelievers were converted.

Looking back to that day and the four glorious months that followed, Zinzendorf later recalled: “The whole place represented truly a visible habitation of God among men.”

A spirit of prayer was immediately evident in the fellowship and continued throughout that “golden summer of 1727,” as the Moravians came to designate the period. On August 27 of that year twenty-four men and twenty-four women covenanted to spend one hour each day in scheduled prayer.

Some others enlisted in the “hourly intercession.”

“For over a hundred years the members of the Moravian Church all shared in the ‘hourly intercession.’ At home and abroad, on land and sea, this prayer watch ascended unceasingly to the Lord,” stated historian A. J. Lewis.

The Memorial Days of the Renewed Church of the Brethren, published in 1822, ninety-five years after the decision to initiate the prayer watch, quaintly describes the move in one sentence: “The thought struck some brethren and sisters that it might be well to set apart certain hours for the purpose of prayer, at which seasons all might be reminded of its excellency and be induced by the promises annexed to fervent, persevering prayer to pour out their hearts before the Lord.”

The journal further cites Old Testament typology as warrant for the prayer watch: “The sacred fire was never permitted to go out on the altar (Leviticus 6:13); so in a congregation is a temple of the living God, wherein he has his altar and fire, the intercession of his saints should incessantly rise up to him.”

That prayer watch was instituted by a community of believers whose average age was probably about thirty. Zinzendorf himself was twenty-seven.

The prayer vigil by Zinzendorf and the Moravian community sensitized them to attempt the unheard-of mission to reach others for Christ. Six months after the beginning of the prayer watch the count suggested to his fellow Moravians the challenge of a bold evangelism aimed at the West Indies, Greenland, Turkey and Lapland. Some were skeptical, but Zinzendorf persisted. Twenty-six Moravians stepped forward the next day to volunteer for world missions wherever the Lord led.

The exploits that followed are surely to be numbered among the high moments of Christian history. Nothing daunted Zinzendorf or his fellow heralds of Jesus Christ—prison, shipwreck, persecution, ridicule, plague, abject poverty, threats of death. Church historians look to the eighteenth century and marvel at the Great Awakening in England and America, which swept hundreds of thousands into God’s Kingdom. John Wesley figured largely in that mighty movement and much attention has centered on him. It is not possible that we have overlooked the place, which that round-the clock prayer watch had in reaching Wesley and, through him and his associates, in altering the course of history?

One wonders what would flow from a commitment on the part of twentieth century Christians to institute a “prayer watch” for world evangelization, specifically to reach those, in Zinzendorf’s words, “for whom no one cared.”

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I Am Filled with God’s Power

In our current series at Eastbrook Church, “Who Am I?“, we are exploring biblical answers to questions about our identity as human beings. This past weekend I concluded the series by looking at how the Holy Spirit anchors our identity in God, connects us to a broader family, and sends us out with a new sense of mission.

You can view the message video and an expanded sermon outline below. You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

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30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World (2018)

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The Muslim celebration of Ramadan begins tomorrow on Tuesday, May 15. Every year we encourage our church to prayer for the Muslim world during this time. We have found this to be a great opportunity to cultivate intercessory prayer for those who do not yet know Christ, greater love for Muslims, and a better understanding of Islam.

I am so thankful for the outstanding resource developed in 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World. There is both a print booklet for adults and one developed for kids.

If you are interested in understanding Islam further, please explore the following resources:

Bernard Mizeki: one story of God’s unique call and gifting

Bernard Mizeki.jpegI first came across the compelling story of Bernard Mizeki in Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom’s outstanding book, Clouds of Witnesses: Christian Voices from Africa and Asia.

Born in Inhambane, Mozambique, in 1861, Bernard Mizeki trained as a linguist while living as a migrant worker in Cape Town, South Africa. In 1891, at thirty years of age, he was recruited as a teacher and missionary for the new Anglican diocese of Mashonaland in present day Zimbabwe by George Knight-Bruce, an Anglican bishop and pioneer missionary in Southern Africa.

Using his natural abilities and spiritual gifts, Mizeki translated much of the Bible and Prayer Book into the local languages. With his own experiences in traditional religions, he was able to explain the good news of Jesus Christ through terms the Shona people could understand, leading many to a deeper understanding level of discipleship with Jesus.

During the war of resistance to colonialism in 1896, Mizeki refused to leave his mission and was stabbed to death. He is remembered as the “Mashonaland martyr.”[1]

It was Mizeki’s unique gifts and abilities, his unique creation and experiences, that God took within His hands for the sake of the Gospel, even as it cost Mizeki his life.

We, too, are created uniquely by God, with abilities and talents, experiences and gifts, that God has knit into our lives by His sovereign grace since before we were born.


[1] “Mizeki, Bernard,” Dictionary of African Christian Biography, https://dacb.org/stories/zimbabwe/mizeki-bernard/ & https://dacb.org/stories/zimbabwe/mizeki-bernard2/.

Cities and Christ’s Mission with Jacques Ellul

milwaukee-skyline-2016-1492622665How are we to understand the tension within the Christian Scriptures related to cities?The Hebrew prophets are often critical of cities and many of the destructive promises within the Scripture are aimed at cities, not just groups of people. At the same time, we cannot escape the moving words of the prophet Jeremiah calling God’s exiled people to seek the welfare of the city (Jeremiah 29) or the call of Jesus to his disciples to go to the cities to proclaim the gospel message (Luke 10).

Jacques Ellul addresses this tension in his book The Meaning of the City. Here is an excerpt from the end of chapter two, “Thunder Over the City.”

When we understand what the city represents, we understand better both the order Jesus gave his disciples to go into the cities, and this other curious reference to the city as the center of crisis: “Go to the cities . . . . Shake the dust from your feet against the cities . . . when you are persecuted in one city . . . .” It is in and because of the city that the critical point of preaching is reached. There are of course many valid critical explanations of these texts, but they are not exhaustive. To me it does not seem sufficient to limit Christ’s words to the twelve (or to the seventy in Luke) and to speak of a temporary and exceptional mission of the apostles….

The message of the cross must be carried to the center of man’s autonomy. It must be established where man is most clearly a wild beast. Its goal is less the total umber of men, than the entity man. Christ’s sending his disciples out into the cities of Israel is their most dangerous mission, for it is directed against the heart of the world’s power and betrayal….

It is only by seeing in these texts a shaft aimed at the city that we can bring the various meanings back to one. For undeniably Jesus was here showing what would be the Christian’s attitude and position concerning the city and his work there. It is not for nothing that Christ’s unsettled status is mentioned (“The Son of man has no place to lay his head”), and that immediately afterwards he sends his disciples into the place of man’s stubborn establishment (Luke 9:57 and 10:16). It is not for nothing that he asked his disciples to go through the cities of Israel, fleeing from one to another, putting each one of them in a position of choosing, in a position of responsibility (Matt. 10:23). It is not for nothing that he showed that the departure of the disciple was most serious, that their departure, by shaking the dust from their sandals, was decisive in the order of condemnation (Matt. 10:14-15). In fact, all that we found in the Old Testament texts is here in résumé. The situation of the people of God in Babylon is the exact situation of the disciples in the city. This dialectic between staying and leaving, preserving and judging, is centered in the preaching of the Gospel of the kingdom. The entire doctrine which we have so far discovered and received is illuminated by these few brilliant words from Christ’s lips. Nothing has been changed, but what was announced is being fulfilled. What was described is being lived. And from this vantage point one can look back and understand the rest.

The disciples’ mission is outside the country, in the cities where God’s people, Israel, may be found living, in those cities where these people have entered into slavery, where they have shut themselves up in refusal and disobedience, where they have betrayed their vocation. God’s Israel has now become the church. Around her, the same battle is raging. She is bogged down in the same mud and must take up the same work, a work never finished because the city is the city. Go through all the cities of Israel, comes the command, brining judgment and forgiveness. Your work will not be done until the Son of Man returns. Even Nineveh converted is still Nineveh, and you, as ever in danger in her midst, can expect nothing other than the Lord’s lot (Matt. 10:24) – expulsion from the city.

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Next Steps on Displaced People

In response to our MissionsFest and preaching on displaced people both by me and Jenny Yang of World Relief, our mission team offered a list of next steps as our response to displaced people and the needs of the world. I’ve slightly edited it for online readership.

  • SHOW HOSPITALITY. Thanksgiving is coming! Invite a refugee family/individual, or an international university student to your home to share a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Questions? Just ask. Sign up at the MissionsFest ministry booth in the Lobby this weekend or email Maritza Diaz
  • READ A BOOK! We recommend Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis by Stephan Bauman, Matthew Soerens, and Dr. Issam Smeir or Welcoming the Stranger by Jenny Yang and Matthew Soerens.
  • GET INVOLVED by attending a Next Steps class. Have your questions answered about connecting globally and locally with the world’s refugee community. Sunday, October 29, 11 am in Fellowship Hall.
  • MEET SOME NEW FRIENDS at Eastbrook’s International Language Center (ILCT). See what happens at our center and consider tutoring a refugee. Find out more at our Southside Informational Meeting on Saturday, November 18, 9-11:30 am at the ILCT (4204 S. Howell Ave., Milwaukee).
  • PRAY for Eastbrook’s international workers using the prayer insert in this weekend’s bulletin.
  • SUPPORT Eastbrook’s Missions Budget financially for 12 months and help fuel ministry around the world: eastbrook.org/giving

God of the Displaced Ones. part 2

This past weekend, I concluded both Eastbrook’s Missions Fest as well as our series “God in Blank Spaces.” Building off of Jenny Yang‘s message on the global situation of displaced people the previous weekend, I continued the theme of God’s mission amongst the displaced people of the world.

My approach to this topic, however, was to engage more deeply with the theme verses chosen for the week from Leviticus 19:33-34:

When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.

I sought to provide an overview of the book of Leviticus and its vital role in our own faith today as the New Testament people of God. In particular I focused on Leviticus’s theme of holiness, giving attention to four aspects of holiness that we must grasp clearly:

  1. God makes His people holy.
  2. God is making His people holy.
  3. Holiness is personal in nature.
  4. Holiness is relational in nature.

Here is the video and sermon outline of my message, “God of the Displaced Ones, part two.”

You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

 

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