Pray Like You Breathe

The first Sunday of the New Year, our pastor stood up and said,” Pray like you breathe.” For the next few moments I became distracted because this triggered a piece of little known history in the back of my mind. Today I’d to share with you. Every now and then a history lesson is profitable.

Count Niklaus Ludwig Von Zinsendorf, (1700-1791) was a rich man of title, born in Dresden, Germany. When he was six years old, invading Swedish soldiers broke into the Zinzendorf castle. These soldiers were astonished to hear the fervent prayers of this child.

By the time Zinzendorf left his studies at Halle, under the leader August Francke, he had been active in establishing many circles of prayer. He was sixteen years old.

Zinzendorf was profoundly affected by a painting of Christ crowned with thorns. The inscription below said: “I have done this for you; what have you done for me?” He began to wonder what had he ever done for God.

Two years later refugees were fleeing from Moravia. They came onto his estate, and people of the local town’s people were offended at the “riff-raff.”


As he began to help these people, more and more came. They built homes and grew to a community of three hundred people. They called this place Herrnhut or “the Lord’s watch.” He organized a church and separated the people into groups to study Scripture and pray.

In five years, disharmony and bickering had begun among the people and at this time, Zinzendorf learned the secret of prevailing prayer.


On August 13, 1727, he called for prayer, and repentance. The Holy Spirit moved and there was a revival among the people. It was this day that Zinzendorf established a “round-the-clock” prayer watch in Herrnhut. Zinzendorf was only twenty-seven.


It began with 24 men and 24 women who scheduled prayer at one hour a day intervals. For the most part, these were young men and women about thirty years old. Yet each one to prayed one hour a day.

One person, one hour every day, year after year.

By 1791, or 65 years later the small group of Moravians sent out 300 missionaries all over the world. This prayer watch continued without stop for one hundred years.

One hundred years

This included, not one generation, but several generations of praying warriors, who changed the world. Their first missionaries were two young men who desired to bring the Word of God to slaves in the West Indies. The slave master was an atheist and told the men that the only way they could go in his ship was to become slaves themselves. In 1732, Dober and Nitschmann left everything behind and sold themselves as slaves to the Island of St. Thomas. When a missionary left Herrnhut, they had a funeral, because they would never return. They gave up everything for the cause of Christ.

This movement caught the eye of John Wesley, who went on to lead the Methodist movement. William Carey sailed 60 years after the first Moravian missionaries left for the West Indies. In his writings he made reference to the Moravians and their covenant community living.

Moravian seal

Eventually, the Moravian influence came to North America. They founded two communities in Eastern Pennsylvania—Bethlehem and Nazareth. While in America, Zinzendorf renounced his European titles because he found it to be a barrier among the colonists. It was said he was the only European nobleman to go among the Native Americans and visit their leaders and treat them as equals. Some groups of Moravians settled North Carolina in the towns of Bethabara, Bethania, Salem, (which is Old Salem in Winston-Salem). They carried the Gospel to the Cherokee in Georgia and when the Cherokee were removed to Oklahoma, the Moravians started a new mission in Oaks, OK.

One can hardly comprehend a movement that lasted one hundred years! Certainly it was a God anointed time for the purpose of spreading the Gospel.

Christianity is fading in America and we look back and wonder how this happened. Once we were a little nation of thirteen colonies founded on religious freedom, and now rejecting it. Those were hard-won freedoms, but after WWII we became fat and prosperous. Then too many years of…far too comfortable, too much of a good thing…generation after generation until we expect more than we work for.

Little by little we watch freedom wither and grow thin, as if a great wind were blowing it. If you don’t see this, your head is in the sand.

Weathered cabin on Horseshoe Mt, Colorado

Is it possible to begin this prayer movement once again?

Could I imagine being in prayer one hour every day, for the rest of my life?

Is it too late for America?

When children came into my life, my schedule in the beginning revolved around a nursing baby. It was then I learned how important it is to pray short prayers throughout the day…praying as I breathed.

Susanna Wesley trained her many children, that when she sat and put her apron over her head, they knew not to bother her. She was in prayer. Eventually her two sons, Charles and John Wesley preached the Gospel, and wrote some of the hymns of today.

Is it possible in this crazy busy life to pray continually for one whole hour?

Do our prayers fall flat? Are we weak prayer warriors? Do we see so much death, and evil that our prayers are half-hearted? Have we given up hope? Who prays for us when we are so broken we can’t speak?

It’s never too late to pray for the world!

It’s never too late for America!

It is a small, but powerful effort which you can make to change in the world. The power of prayer in one person, permeates the world, and strengthens another. Multiply this by all the church and that’s powerful prayer!

“Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”


“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”

Romans 8:26


6 thoughts on “Pray Like You Breathe

  1. Sallie Lemponen

    Some of my fondest memories of being with Grandma (McElwain) Crawford in my adult life was spending over an hour every morning with Grandma and Grandpa in prayer. For them it WAS as normal as breathing!!

  2. Wonderful historical context for words that I need to keep before my eyeballs all the time. Blessings, Diane! And happy 2016 – is it possible that this is the first time I’ve visited this year???

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