Intercession, Prayer & Fasting Changed History At Dunkirk
Catastrophe for Allied forces It was May 1940. The prime minister of Britain, Neville Chamberlain, had just resigned and Winston Churchill had become his replacement. Adolph Hitler’s army had already invaded and conquered Poland, Norway, Denmark,Holland, Luxembourg and Belgium. The French Army, along with large numbers of English soldiers, bravely tried to stop the oncoming enemy army, but after 40 days of fighting, the Allied forces were completely routed. They retreated as far as the English Channel.
Close to 500,000 British and French troops found themselves trapped in a tiny coastal enclave known as Dunkirk, with the advancing German army only 15 miles away and German air planes already bombing Dunkirk. There seemed to be no hope for the men as they sent out desperate calls for help. They were either going to be killed or imprisoned in a matter of days. Even the military leaders thought little could be done to rescue more than a few thousand men.
In that seemingly impossible situation, the churches in Britain called for a day of prayer to be held on Sunday, May 26. (Read Reese Howell’s Journal Entries here)The call went out on May 23 from various political leaders, newspapers, and King George VI. The Archbishop of Canterbury reversed an earlier opposition to a day of prayer and joined in calling the people of Britain to a time of united prayer. Churches were filled on that Sunday as people from all walks of life sought God for divine intervention to protect and save their friends, loved ones and country. Meanwhile, on May 24, one day after the call for a national day of prayer, Hitler ignored the advice of many of his generals and ordered his armies to hold their positions while Dunkirk was bombed and shelled from the air and from a distance. Thunderstorms and thick fog made it difficult for the planes to fly or see, but Hitler’s army remained in place until early June.
The Call for small-boat rescue On the evening of the national day of prayer, an order was issued for boats of all sizes and shapes to cross the English Channel and rescue as many men as possible. Naval ships couldn’t get close to the beaches for rescue, so small boats were critical in transporting men to the larger ships – or all the way to British shores. Accepting the challenge took tremendous courage for the boat operators. They knew the waters of the English Channel could be extremely dangerous for small boats, and they knew German bombs could sink them. Above all, they knew that not taking action at this point in history would have devastating consequences, so they chose to take the risks. In all, 336,000 men were rescued with little boats and yachts alike, as the rescuers made numerous trips back and forth across the English Channel.
What does this mean for us today? One or two boats responding would not have saved lives. It was the massive, collective, effort of every boat that saved all 500,000 lives! Can a nation be saved in a day? Yes, if we, the entire Body of Christ pray!
Update (12/23/2016) New Movie Coming out about this very topic. While I’ve not seen it yet as it isn’t released. The movie tells the story of this incredible rescue.
Rees Howells was born in the mining village of Brynamman, South Wales. He was deeply affected by the Welsh Revival of 1904-1905 which was the largest full scale Christian Revival of Wales in the 20th century. Many people believe that it was his powerful prayers that brought revival and history was changed.
In 1924 he founded the Bible College of Wales. Prayer continues to be the foundation stone upon which the college is built. Click here for a historical virtual tour of the college in the 20th century.
A biography by Norman Grubb entitled Rees Howells: Intercessor tells of Rees Howells mastery of intercessor prayer which had global consequences. A review on the concepts of this book can be found here.
“the gained position of intercession”