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The Herrnhut Factor

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I sat spellbound recently as a pastor began to tell me the stories of just a few of the hundreds of men and women who have come to faith in the church that he helps to lead. Finally, unable to contain either my excitement or my curiosity any longer, I asked the inevitable question: “To what do you attribute this remarkable movement of God?” His answer was immediate. “It’s the prayer. Two years ago we started to pray in shifts of people. Twenty-four hours a day—every day—and we are still doing it. That’s the explanation.”

Immediately, I understood. It’s the “Herrnhut Factor.” In 1722, Count Zinzendorf, a remarkable Christian layman, founded a tiny Moravian community called Herrnhut (“the Lord’s watch”). A few years later, in 1727, after experiencing a remarkable season of the Lord’s presence, the members began a prayer meeting that went 24 hours a day, seven days a week—and lasted until 1847! That community, undergirded by this remarkable prayer initiative, birthed one of the most effective missionary movements in modern history, sending hundreds of men and women around the globe to tell the story of Jesus.

I remember the first time I experienced the connection between fervent prayer for lost men and women and the joy of watching those same individuals come to Christ. As a young church planter, I was leading a group of men and women, some of whom were new believers, in a study of the Book of Acts. We had come to the description of Paul’s ministry in the city of Ephesus, where he met every day with the believers to teach the Word and to pray. One of the newest disciples in our group (they always have the most radical ideas) then suggested that we meet early every morning to read the Word and to pray specifically for the lost people in our lives.

To be honest, I really did not want to do it. I was not a “morning person,” and I hated getting up before sunrise! But for the sake of the young believers, I felt I had to agree.

The next morning, and every morning after that for the next four years, we met at two locations to read God’s Word and to pray for lost people. Sometimes there were only two or three people present at each place of prayer. At other times the numbers would swell to ten or more. But six days a week, we prayed for our friends who did not yet know Jesus. Within days we saw the first conversion (and the first miracle of healing), and it kept on happening as scores and finally hundreds of people came to faith in Christ.

The Bible makes it very clear that only the Holy Spirit of God can change the heart and mind of an unbeliever. The miracle of the new birth can be brought about only by His divine power. We have the responsibility of sharing the gospel both by our lives and by our word, but only God can bring another person to conviction of sin and faith in the Redeemer. So we must pray, since prayer is the primary work of the people of God. And there is something very special that happens when God’s people pray together. Whenever “two or three” (or ten or a hundred) gather together in His Name to pray, God promises to hear and to answer those prayers!

Every year, as I visit many Alliance churches around the country, I find a few in which the joy of watching men, women and children come to Christ happens on a weekly basis. In every one of these churches, there is a clear link between those conversions and a small group of people who regularly and fervently pray for specific individuals.

What would happen if, in every single church across America, a few people would commit to regular, fervent and specific prayer for men and women in their network of relationships who do not yet know Christ? And then what would result if we looked for concrete opportunities to share the good news of Christ’s love with those same individuals? I think I know what would happen. It could be the beginning of the next “Great Awakening.”

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