Nothing Significant Happens Without Prayer is a pretty strong statement and it is one I believe to be true.
And today I want us to understand why this is and be challenged to pray.
Let’s start with a story from history as told by Galli and Olsen in 131 Christians everyone should know by Broadman and Holman.
Nearly two centuries after Luther posted his 95 Theses, Protestantism had lost some of its soul.
Institutions and dogma had, in many people’s minds, choked the life out of the Reformation.
Lutheran minister P.J. Spener hoped to revive the church by promoting the “practice of piety,” emphasizing prayer and Bible reading over dogma.
Pietism spread quickly, reinvigorating Protestants throughout Europe—including underground Protestants in Moravia and Bohemia (modern Czechoslovakia).
The Catholic church cracked down on the dissidents, and many were forced to flee to Protestant areas of neighboring Germany.
One group of families fled north to Saxony, where they settled on the lands belonging to a rich young ruler, Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf.
Born into Austrian nobility and raised by his grandmother, Zinzendorf showed an early inclination toward theology and religious work.
As the godson of P.J. Spener, he was raised in a strong Pietist tradition.
But as a count, he was expected to follow his late father’s footsteps into government.
He did as he was told and in October 1721 became the king’s judicial counselor at Dresden.
After less than a year at court, he bought the estate of Berthelsdorf from his grandmother, hoping to form a Christian community for oppressed religious minorities.
Almost immediately a Moravian named Christian David showed up at his door and became his first tenant.
Ten Moravian Protestants arrived before December and founded a settlement on the count’s land.
They named it Herrnhut—“the Lord’s watch.”By
May 1725, 90 Moravians were gathered at Herrnhut.
Because of the spirited preaching at the Berthelsdorf parish church, the population of this “small city” had reached 300 by 1726.
The count was still a devout Lutheran and tried to keep the refugees within the parish church.
His goal was to form ecclesiolae in ecclesia—“little churches within the church”—to act as a leaven, revitalizing and unifying churches into one communion.
But with the diversity at Herrnhut, discord soon arose.
When it did, Zinzendorf moved to Herrnhut with his family.
He went from house to house counseling those who needed it and created a “Brotherly Agreement” of manorial rules.
He also appointed watchmen, almoners, and other caretakers.
“There can be no Christianity without community,” he said.
In July 1737 Zinzendorf accidentally discovered a copy of the constitution of the Unitas Fratrum (Unity of the Brethren) of the fifteenth-century Hussite movement in Bohemia and Moravia.
He was amazed that the Unitas Fratrum was “a fully established church antedating Lutheranism itself.”
Even more amazing, the constitution was very similar to his newly adopted “Brotherly Agreement.”
He raced back to Herrnhut to share his discovery, and at a powerful Communion service, the Moravians at Herrnhut vowed to restore the older church with Zinzendorf.
The Berthelsdorf parish church would continue as a Lutheran parish, but became Herrnhut, a Unity of the Brethren congregation; they would later become known as the Moravian Church.
Like the Pietists, the Moravian Brethren believed that Christianity should be a “religion of the heart”—which went against the grain of the growing acceptance of Enlightenment beliefs.
They emphasized experience of faith and love over doctrine, and thus were more accepting of varying denominational differences.
In fact, Zinzendorf may have been the first churchman to use the word “ecumenism.”
Visiting Copenhagen in 1731 to attend the coronation of King Christian VI, Zinzendorf met a converted slave from the West Indies, Anthony Ulrich.
The man was looking for someone to go back to his homeland to preach the gospel to black slaves, including his sister and brother.
Zinzendorf raced back to Herrnhut to find men to go; two immediately volunteered, becoming the first Moravian missionaries—and the first Protestant missionaries of the modern era, antedating William Carey (often called “the father of modern missions”) by 60-some years.
Within two decades, Zinzendorf sent missionaries around the globe: to Greenland, Lapland, Georgia, Surinam, Africa’s Guinea Coast, South Africa, Amsterdam’s Jewish quarter, Algeria, the native North Americans, Ceylon, Romania, and Constantinople.
In short order, more than 70 missionaries from a community of fewer than 600 answered the call.By the time Zinzendorf died in 1760 in Herrnhut, the Moravians had sent out at least 226 missionaries
Zinzendorf’s influence is felt much wider than in the Moravian Church.
His emphasis on the “religion of the heart” deeply influenced John Wesley.
He is remembered today, as Karl Barth put it, as “perhaps the only genuine Christocentric of the modern age.”
Scholar George Forell put it more succinctly: Zinzendorf was “the noble Jesus freak.”
His greatest legacy though was something which is often overlooked when the account of his influence is given.
The Moravian Bretheren quietly went about something so significant that it is credited as being the spiritual power behind the great revivals and missionary movements of the 1700 and 1800s under people such as Wesley, Whitefield and Carey.
The Moravian Bretheren prayed.
Not just on a daily or a weekly basis they actually instituted a prayer meeting that ran 24 hours a day 7 days a week for 100 years.
Prayer is simply conversation with God.
It might take the form of petition, asking God to act.
It might take the form of thanksgiving for what God has done.
Or praise and adoration for who God is.
It might take the form of confession of what you have done.
Or it could simply take the form of expressing to God your pain and confusion over something, pouring out your heart in grief or even anger.
Simply being with God and talking with him.
Prayer opens us to see what God is up to.
This was the experience of the New Testament Church
The first example is Peter in Acts 10, where is is unaware that God has been speaking to Cornelius a Roman Officer, someone whom Peter would have never thought that God would want him to share the Gospel with.
But God had been working in Cornelius’ heart and he was a man who desired to do what was right, he was a man who was seeking after the one true God.
He was a man who had been generous to the local Jewish people because he saw in their religion indications of the God he was seeking.
Cornelius is what is known as a God fearer, someone who recognises the one true God yet is unsure of how to truly follow him and in many cases isn’t to sure that those who claim to represent him have got everything right.
When an Angel of the Lord was sent to Cornelius with instructions to go and get Peter we see that God is up to something.
Cornelius was open to what God was up to, but Peter had to be convinced.
And Peter taking the time to pray is an indication that he was wanting to hear from God.
Lets pick the story up from Acts 10:9-17
Acts 10:9–17 (NLT)
9 The next day as Cornelius’s messengers were nearing the town, Peter went up on the flat roof to pray.
It was about noon, 10 and he was hungry.
But while a meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance.
11 He saw the sky open, and something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners.
12 In the sheet were all sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds.
13 Then a voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.”
14 “No, Lord,” Peter declared.
“I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure and unclean.”
15 But the voice spoke again: “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.”
16 The same vision was repeated three times.
Then the sheet was suddenly pulled up to heaven.
17 Peter was very perplexed.
What could the vision mean?
Just then the men sent by Cornelius found Simon’s house.
God was up to something and the lesson for us here is that when we pray and are genuinely wanting to hear from God he will in one way or another literally open doors and let us see the opportunity that was previously hiden to us.
The second example I want us to look at is in Acts 16:6-10
We tend to see opposition or circumstances that prevent us from achieving what we had planned as always being negative.
Paul and Silas found closed doors, circumstances that meant they couldn’t do what they planned.
But there was a reason for this.
God was steering them towards something that was far better.
He wanted the Gospel to go to a new area.
Now we could trace many positive results of Paul journeying to Macedonia but today let’s just look at one that is found in Acts 16:13-15
Lydia was the first convert in what we now know as Europe, her home became the base for the church in Phillipi and today many schoolars recognise that Lydia was a leader in the church that met in her home and as a wealthy business owner the patron of the church.
She is one of a number of women who are recognised in the New Testament as leaders of the church.
The Gospel came to Europe because Paul was open to hearing God through times of prayer and because a devout woman then heard the Gospel and responded leading her entire household to believe.
Prayer opens us up to what God is up to, I beleive we need to shift our focus from what we want God to do for us to what God wants to show us he is already doing.
Then we need to get on board with his plans.