Historic examples of the effectiveness of national days of prayer
I have often referred to the extraordinary way by which Rees Howells and a dedicated company of intercessors were led to pray during the Second World and which mightily influenced the course of the war. See particularly chapters 33-35 in this free to read version of Rees Howells, Intercessor by Norman Grubb.
These were spiritual campaigns mounted by a battalion of experienced intercessors, but unlike in our own generation, the whole nation was invited to participate. Most of you will have heard of the national day of prayer that was held on 26 May 1940 at the height of the Dunkirk crisis that led to the miracle of being able to rescue 300,000 soldiers from the French beaches. You will not be surprised either to know that another such day of prayer preceded the miracle that occurred during the Battle of Britain in September 1940.
Fewer people are aware that the King and Parliament combined to call the nation to five further such days of prayer in the course of the war, all of which were followed by significant developments.
Seven times all the churches were filled, even by those who had not been to church in years or indeed ever.
Crossrhythms reproduced notes on all seven of these days, based on the notes that Dr Viktor Pierce made in his book Miracles & Angels.
Whilst some of the ‘results’ that some claim as a consequence of these days may have been circumstantial, other developments have a highly authentic ring to them.
For example, it was immediately after the day of prayer on 21st March 1941 that Yugoslavia, which had surrendered to Hitler, changed its mind, and, refusing to allow nationalist divisions between Serbia and Croatia to prevail, started to organise highly effective resistance, thereby seriously checking Hitler’s progress in the Balkans.
Ethiopia’s Christian Emperor had firmly resolved to put his cause into God’s hands, and this paved the way for Ethiopia’s final liberation from Mussolini, As Hitler’s future co-partner, Mussolini had been so passionate about developing an empire that he made extensive use of poison gas in his unjustified conquest of Ethiopia prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. In 1947, Italy agreed to pay $25,000,000 in reparations, including the loss of 2,000 churches. wikipedia.org
Haile Selassi himself, who had met with Rees Howell, accepted the title Defender of the Faith, and declared to the nation on the launch of a new version of the Bible:
Today man sees all his hopes and aspirations crumbling before him. He is perplexed and knows not whither he is drifting. But he must realise that the Bible is his refuge, and the rallying point for all humanity. In it man will find the solution of his present difficulties and guidance for his future action, and unless he accepts with clear conscience the Bible and its great Message, he cannot hope for salvation. For my part I glory in the Bible.
Significant Events after the Fifth National Day of Prayer
The fifth National Day of Prayer was on September 3rd, 1942, marking the third anniversary of the outbreak of war. The next day at Palermo in Sicily, significant elements of the Italian fleet were sunk. Most important for us, just over a month later the Eighth Army under General Montgomery saved Egypt (and therefore Israel) from being invaded by Hitler’s commander Rommel in the second battle of El Alamein.
The sixth National Day of Prayer was held a year to the day later on September 3rd, 1943 on the fourth anniversary of the outbreak of war. Italy surrendered to the allies that very night – although the news was kept secret for five more days to allow the Allies to consolidate their position in Italy.
In the spring of 1944, the seventh and last Day of Prayer was called by the King
The launching of D-Day was delayed several times by the Supreme Commander G. Eisenhower owing to the terrible weather. At last Eisenhower had to make the agonising decision whether to give the go ahead or miss a possible opportunity altogether. Eisenhower reported later:
The Germans believed an invasion was impossible as a result of prevailing weather conditions and their own weather forecasts, but a significant coming lull was identified by courageous weather forecasters, enabling Eisnhower to give the order to proceed despite the stormy conditions. Had the Allies delayed until later in June, they would have encountered the worst weather in the English Channel in two decades. history.com
Eisenhower later wrote,
“If there were nothing else in my life to prove the existence of an Almighty and merciful God, the events of the next 24 hours did it . . . The greatest break in a terrible outlay of weather occurred the next day and allowed that great invasion to proceed, with losses far below those we had anticipated…”
Services of dedication were held on the eve of D-Day in which all in the army were urged to pledge themselves to God. Senior padre, Canon Llewellyn did not merely urge ‘religion’ on them: he called them to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Let an army and a people learn what God stands for, and then they will know when they are for, or against, His purpose. They will then support or oppose with confidence as His commissioned servants. It is not enough for an army or a nation to have a vague faith in God. It is not enough for us to rest content that our own commanders are godly, and that God’s flag is publicly flown.
“Faith in God is useless until it governs action. What does God want done? We believe in God – as what? As a nonentity, content to be recognised, and then ignored? As a vague power, meaningless, purposeless, inarticulate, and therefore unfit to command a platoon, let alone a world? . . . we believe in God who wants, and means to have done, all that Christ embodied, taught and lived out . . .
“That is where the solid toil of consecration comes in. The character of Christ must be known; His goodness perceived and loved; Himself accepted as Master. No special effort thrown off in an emergency will accomplish that; and there is no short cut.
“So the chaplains are going forward with the forces preaching the simple Gospel of Christ, the Author and Finisher of all the fine qualities of men. There is no ideal of character better than the one God sent to us again in Jesus Christ our Lord. Read the New Testament!”
Viktor Pierce records that the nation did not turn out for prayer on this occasion in the same overwhelming numbers as on previous occasions. Perhaps this was because the fear of defeat had vanished. Earlier in the war, everybody understood the hopelessness of our situation and fled to God for deliverance. Even newspapers had given tips on how to pray. Here is an example of the RAF praying in 1942: click here
It is so easy to pray when your back is to the wall; but the Lord is looking for people who will press forward to gain and secure victories for Him.
May we play our small part in this by making opportunities to lift matters of moment to the Lord whenever we find ourselves with likeminded people – or when in a position to introduce the concept of doing so to God’s people.