Have you ever heard of the miracle at Dunkirk? The story is one of God’s people seeking His help and His amazing provision in the face of treacherous odds. When I need a miracle, I always think of Dunkirk and the miraculous way God intervened to save 334,000 men in four days. Let me share the story with you today.
The Miracle at Dunkirk
Great Britain was in trouble. In 1933, Adolph Hitler became the ruler of Germany. By September of 1939, Hitler and his Nazi army were set on controlling all of Europe. First, they invaded Poland, then they took over Norway, Denmark, Holland, Luxembourg, and Belgium without much resistance. It was after that that Hitler turned to France. The French did the best to hold their ground, but after forty days they gave up the fight.
The English people were certain that Hitler would try to dominate their country next. But Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister, wasn’t about to submit so easily. “We would rather go down fighting than being slave to Germany,” he said. They were also worried about the English troops on French soil. Hitler was advancing quickly, and if he continued, their troops would soon be captured or killed. The country needed prayer. Badly. But would they submit to God? Would they turn over their need to him?
At first, on April 1940, the Archbishop of Canterbury did not want to set aside a special day of prayer. He was afraid it would be “misunderstood or rather miss represented by the enemy.”
After all, if they were praying, that would prove they were almost defeated, right?
Soon things got so bad that it didn’t matter what the Germans thought. The British Empire needed prayer… Now. On May 23, King George VI proclaimed a day of national prayer to be held on Sunday, May 26, throughout the empire. Little did he know that his request would come at the exact moment it was needed. On May 24, just a day after the Archbishop had chosen a day of prayer, 500,000 British and French soldiers were trapped on the beach of Dunkirk when the Germans took control of France. Fear gripped the heart of the British people. If the Nazis advanced, it would be easy to wipe out all those men. Husbands, sons, and
brothers would face certain annihilation.
Two days later, on May 26, the British people gathered to pray. They played with God to save the soldiers they loved. The British Broadcasting Corporation broadcast three services. The king and the members of the cabinet attended the services at Westminster Abby. Outside, the church was surrounded by large groups of people who couldn’t get in. Millions of the king’s subjects, in England and all over the world, joined together in churches to pray.
The First Miracle at Dunkirk
Instead of moving in, the Nazis retreated. Hitler stopped the advance of his armored columns right at the point that they could have completely destroyed the Allied forces. Hitler’s own generals didn’t understand this decision. This was the first miracle. Hitler held back, but British leaders didn’t know for how long. England made the decision to evacuate the troops from France, but there was a problem, the only port they could evacuate from was Dunkirk. And that port was being threatened by the Germans. The best estimates were that they’d be able to evacuate only 20 to 30,000 men, perhaps half of the people there.
Then the second miracle occurred on May 28. Storms broke out over Flanders, and Belgium, grounding the German lift Buffay Air Force. They could not bomb any of the Allied troops. This allowed the British army to journey 12 miles to Dunkirk on foot. They walked in the darkness of the storm, but they were safe from bombings and attacks.
The Miracle at Dunkirk
Then the third miracle arrived. For six days following the national Day of prayer, the normally rough waters of the English channel work home. Even though the storm raged so the planes couldn’t fly, the waters remain still. Small boats and yachts, warships, and privately owned cruisers were sent to retrieve them. The channel was so filled it looked like rush-hour traffic on the highway. And on May 29, 47,000 men were rescued. On May 30, 53,000. On May 31, 68,000. Finally, on June 1, 64,000. In total, 334,000 men found their way to safety. British field marshal William Edmond Ironside later wrote, “I still cannot understand how it is that the Germans have allowed us to get our troops off in this way. It is almost fantastic that we have been able to do it in the face of all the bombing and gunning.”
His troops remain in place until early June. God held back Hitler’s hand until all the troops could be safely evacuated. The hand of God was seeing so clearly, that Sunday, June 9, was appointed as a day of national Thanksgiving, and history was changed forever.
All God Asks is that We Turn to Him
In this life, we will face many troubles, but we do not have to face them alone. No matter how far we’ve gone away from God, we can always turn back to him. When we do, he is ready to assist us in amazing ways. When is the right time to pray? Now!
That is what the Lord says:
Turn to me now while there is time. Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and morning. Don’t terret your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead. Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punished. Who knows, perhaps he will give you a re-Prive, sending you a blessing instead of this curse. Perhaps you will be able to offer grain and wine to the Lord your God as before.
Joel 2:12-14 NLT
Something to Think About
Do you need a miracle today? Have you prayed about it? Sometimes we wait before praying. Why? What did the British people discover when they gathered together to pray? They saw God move in amazing ways and so can you!
What do you need to pray about? Who can you get to join you?
Prayers That Changed History
This post was adapted from my book, Prayers That Changed History—the stories of twenty-five notable people and how prayer changed their lives and changed history. Following each historical example is a biblical story that ties to that person’s life and actions, as well as ways you can use the power of prayer in your life as well. Because God isn’t done changing the world yet, and he would love to use you to make history.
Get your copy here: Prayers That Changed History