When the Moravians, led by Count Zinzendorf, experienced their Pentecost moment in 1727 at Herrnhut, powerful spiritual forces were set in motion. Within 2 weeks of that fateful day in August, members of the community instituted a system to pray around-the-clock for those who did not yet have the Gospel nor the outpouring of the Spirit. They looked to the Bible verse Leviticus 6:13 as their inspiration: “The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out.” This non-stop prayer watch was run by at least 2 adults each hour, but later more adults joined in this endeavor hourly, and even children committed to participate in this. The 24-7 prayer movement started small, but amazingly it would last for over a hundred years.
As the Moravians surrendered to the move of God in their midst, a spirit of profound faith and sacrificial obedience swept through their ranks, and it created a burning impetus to go out into the world and carry the Gospel to those still unreached. The revival touched their hearts so deeply that missions to a lost world only made sense. This small community of Christians, about 300 in number in the year 1727, contended for the great honor to be chosen to serve as missionaries. At one point, 29 of them sold themselves into slavery so that other slaves could hear the Gospel. The Moravians became an unstoppable launchpad for Christian missions. By 1760, when Zinzendorf finally passed away into His Savior’s arms, the Moravians had sent out 226 missionaries from their church into 10 countries around the world.
When the opportunity arose to go to the New World in the Americas in the mid 1700’s, many Moravians wished to go, partly because persecution was indeed bad at home, but even more importantly, because they adamantly wanted to share Jesus with the native American Indians and with other colonists who were unchurched. They also wanted to be able to worship and serve God freely with all their hearts. In their records, they stated: “Let us seek an estate where we can worship God without restraint, and where we will be able to use our lives and our means to promote His glory.”
The Moravians are often mentioned as contributing greatly to the 1st Great Awakening in the American colonies. It was not because they demonstrated an abundance of supernatural signs and wonders as they travelled. Instead, they were positioned at the right place at the right time, walking fully in the Spirit’s embrace. When John Wesley, who would play a significant role in this Awakening, was crossing the Atlantic Ocean to Georgia in 1736, the ship encountered a ferocious storm. As the fierce winds and waters swept across the ship’s deck, most people despaired of making it out alive. Yet, Wesley noticed one group onboard - the Moravians - who remained strangely calm and sang songs of praise all through the storm. They did not fear death. They steadfastly trusted in Jesus. This would leave a strong impression upon Wesley, even as the storm departed and allowed the ship to safely make it to port.
Two years later, in 1738, Wesley would find himself back in England, struggling with doubts about his own faith, when he ended up at a Moravian meeting at Aldersgate Street. There he heard the Gospel preached as he had never heard before, and he ultimately put his faith in Christ alone for his salvation. Wesley would go on to be a key founder of the revival-minded Methodists and a prominent figure in the great spiritual awakening in America. One lesson is clear: those who find themselves radically touched by revival - like the Moravians were - often go on to be God’s agents to set others ablaze for God’s great purposes.
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