Count Ludwig Nikolaus von Zinzendorf is a preeminent example of the convergence between prayer and missiology. He allowed some refugees from Moravia to establish a village on his land in southeast Germany.
They were fleeing the Counter-Reformation, having been bitterly persecuted for their beliefs in salvation by faith, the authority of Scripture and the priesthood of all believers. That was in 1722, but by 1727 they were almost ready to kill each other! Zinzendorf, aged 27, basically said, “Enough of this.” He got them all together one day in a little church building in neighboring Berthelsdorf, and he challenged them to covenant themselves as a community to Christ. There were apologies and repentance.
Something extraordinary happened: The Moravians began to organize themselves to pray in a persevering, disciplined way; they prayed in shifts. Suddenly that entire village became a transformed community of prayer, a community experimenting with some radical models of social structure and of economics that were neither communist nor capitalist. They continually “kept watch” in this way for more than a hundred years. And there was undoubtedly a missional heartbeat to this extraordinary prayer meeting, because within five years the Moravians at Herrnhut had begun sending out missionaries—missionaries who catalyzed the great missions thrust of the Reformation. (Pete Greig, “The Missiology of Prayer,” in Practitioners, p 53-54)
Great movements of God are always birthed in prayer. As E.M. Bounds observed in his classic book, Power Through Prayer,
What the Church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men who the Holy Ghost can use—men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men—men of prayer. (p 12)
To fuel missional movements, the Church needs to spend time in prayer. Intercession for harvest workers is the foundational prerequisite. “Most of the church has plugged into the relational side of prayer, enjoying communication with their heavenly Father. To foster a multiplication movement and bring in the harvest, we must tune in more intentionally to the working side of prayer Help is urgently needed for intercessors to do their work.” (Bob Logan, Be Fruitful and Multiply, p 40)
On a recent visit with my friend Paul Kaak, his watch beeped at 10:02 am. Suddenly, his son Elijah stopped what he was doing and wanted to pray. He led us in prayer for the harvest and that God would send laborers into the harvest field. Paul explained that every day at 10:02 his watch beeps as a reminder to pray for harvest workers based on Jesus words in Luke 10:2 “And He was saying to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.’”
(Catch Luke 10:2b Virus!)
No matter what Paul is doing every day at 10:02 am, whether teaching a class or spending time with family, he stops and prays. Imagine if more believers would adopt a pattern of praying daily for God to send laborers.
Tom Nebel in his book Big Dreams in Small Places (p 106) suggests some great ways for increasing intercession for missional activity and church planting:
- intercession teams
- monthly prayer letters
- e-mail prayer notices
- regional concerts of prayer for church planting
- occasional 24-hour prayer initiatives
- prayer walking
- the mobilization of retirees who are serious about prayer
- organized prayer “strike teams” to welcome the arrival of new church planters
- prayer calendars
- creative prayer reminders
A prayer movement must precede any missional movement.