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Topical Tuesday: The Dunkirk National Day of Prayer

Posted by John Willans, 2 Jun 2015

In a guest post, John Willans remembers the National Day of Prayer at the time of Dunkirk, 75 years ago.

When Britain was close to defeat during the Second World War, and the entire British Army was trapped at Dunkirk, in desperation George VI called for a National Day of Prayer. This was held on 26th May 1940. In a national broadcast he instructed the people of the UK to turn back to God in a spirit of repentance and plead for Divine help.

Millions of people across the British Isles flocked into churches praying for deliverance and this photograph shows the extraordinary scene outside Westminster Abbey as people queued for prayer. Two events immediately followed. Firstly, a violent storm arose over the Dunkirk region grounding the Luftwaffe which had been killing thousands on the beaches.

And then secondly, a great calm descended on the Channel, the like of which hadn’t been seen for a generation, which allowed hundreds of tiny boats to sail across and rescue 335,000 soldiers, rather than the estimated 20-30,000. From then on people referred to what happened as “the miracle of Dunkirk”.  Sunday June 9th was officially appointed as a Day of National Thanksgiving.

National Days of Prayer where held at critical times throughout the War. After each one, God responded with his Blessing and protection. Looking back, the Bishop of Chelmsford, Dr H. A. Wilson wrote, “If ever a great nation was on the point of supreme and final disaster, and yet was saved and reinstated it was ourselves…it does not require an exceptionally religious mind to detect in all this the Hand of God.”

May we, like the Wartime generation before us, turn to God in a true spirit of repentance and plead for Divine help for our Country. In 2 Chronicles 7:14, God promises, “If people humble themselves and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and forgive their sin and heal their land.”  May our Nation once again seek God’s help as it did during Wartime.

John Willans is the Vicar of Brockham and Leigh. He is behind the Bible based resource website internetpuplit.co.uk which aims to strengthen and equip UK Christians.

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