Moravian Legacy: Unity in Love Births a 100 Year Prayer Movement

At Zinzendorf's grave. 
At Zinzendorf's grave. 

by Jennifer A. Miskov, PhD

On July 14-15, 2015, I had the opportunity to visit Herrnhut Germany with some of the Destiny House family. We got to tap into the roots of our own movement and discover the depths of a deep well of what a community unified by love and humility looks like. 


I was marked by my visit to the Moravian's gravesite called "God's Acre." Nearly all the tombstones were the same size and shape. None outglorified the other. Nothing but the words distinguished one gravestone from the other. The only exception was a  few larger tombstones to honor some of the elders including the main leader Count Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf. When I knelt near his tombstone to reflect on a life well lived and praise God for His faithfulness, I felt the presence and peace of God in a powerful way. Honoring a saint of old nearly brought me to tears, the presence of God overcame me. 

Moravian gravesite
Moravian gravesite

I wondered what it would have looked like to be a part of a community that lived as a family, as a "church within a church," where everyone was celebrated for the gift of God they were, where there were no platforms but they were all on the same level before God. What would it look like today if each person was celebrated by their community for the gift that they are?

After going through a refining process, the early Moravian community realized that love must supersede denominational differences and barriers. Each person was important and had a role to play. No matter how seen or unseen, they were all important for the body of Christ to be able to fully function. The anointed unity found in this tribe of Moravians only came after God intervened to turn them away from years of quarreling.


It was in the summer of 1727 that God stirred the Moravian community to throw off dissension and instead choose unity in love. J.E. Hutton in his A History of the Moravian Church (1909) wrote the following account about this special season where God crashed in with His perfect love. This happened after Zinzendorf found a copy of Comenius' Latin version of the old Brethren's "Account of Discipline" in July of that year. After he read this, his eyes were open. Zinzendorf said,

"And though I have to sacrifice my earthly possessions, my honours and my life, as long as I live I will do my utmost to see to it that  this little flock of the Lord shall be preserved for Him until He come."

Hutton recounts this new awakening below: 

"As the Count devoured the ancient treatise, he noticed that the rules laid down therein were almost the same as the rules which he had just drawn up for the refugees at Herrnhut. He returned to Herrnhut, reported his find, and read the good people extracts from the book {Aug. 4th.}. The sensation was profound. If this was like new milk to the Count it was like old wine to the Brethren; and again the fire of their fathers burned in their veins.

And now the coping stone was set on the temple {Aug. 13th.}. As the Brethren were learning, step by step, to love each other in true sincerity, Pastor Rothe now invited them all to set the seal to the work by coming in a body to Berthelsdorf Church, and there joining, with one accord, in the celebration of the Holy Communion. The Brethren accepted the invitation with joy.

The date fixed was Monday, August 13th. The sense of awe was overpowering. As the Brethren walked down the slope to the church all felt that the supreme occasion had arrived; and all who had quarrelled in the days gone by made a covenant of loyalty and love. At the door of the church the strange sense of awe was thrilling. 

They entered the building; the service began; the "Confession" was offered by the Count; and then, at one and the same moment, all present, rapt in deep devotion, were stirred by the mystic wondrous touch of a power which none could define or understand. 

There, in Berthelsdorf Parish Church, they attained at last the firm conviction that they were one in Christ; and there, above all, they believed and felt that on them, as on the twelve disciples on the Day of Pentecost, had rested the purifying fire of the Holy Ghost.

"We learned," said the Brethren, "to love." "From that time onward," said David Nitschmann, "Herrnhut was a living Church of Jesus Christ..."

It was such a treat to have the opportunity to visit the church at Berthelsdorf where this outpouring of love was poured out. There we worshipped our King with song, dance, and tears, remembering the unity in love that was poured out nearly 300 years before.

Worshipping at Berthelsdorf where the outpouring of love happened in 1727
Worshipping at Berthelsdorf where the outpouring of love happened in 1727

Following the ancient outpouring of love, on August 27, 1727, the Moravian community arranged "a system of Hourly Intercession" so that the blessing would not be lost. 

Hutton says that,

"As the fire on the altar in the Jewish Temple was never allowed to go out, so the Brethren resolved that in this new temple of the Lord the incense of intercessory prayer should rise continually day and night. Henceforth, Herrnhut in very truth should be the 'Watch of the Lord.' The whole day was carefully mapped out, and each Brother or Sister took his or her turn. Of all the prayer unions ever organized surely this was one of the most remarkable. It is said to have lasted without interruption for over a hundred years."

The Moravians birthed a movement that was marked by 100 years of uninterrupted prayer stemming from a profound encounter of rediscovering love for one another despite theological differences. I wonder what God might want to birth today within our generation as people lay down their armor, come together as one to seek, and worship Jesus alone... Lord, we ask that you do it again. Pour out a love Revolution flowing from hearts knit together in God's perfect love. Amen.