I am aware that the film Dunkirk was released this week in all the cinemas in the UK. Just recently I looked up in the internet about the story of the Miracle of Dunkirk. What I discovered was an amazing story of how God moved in response to prayer.
History tells us that on 10th May 1940 Hitler unleashed a military onslaught on France and Belgium. Within days the British and Allied troops found themselves with their backs to the sea hemmed in by their enemies. The German High Command was able to boast with confidence that their troops were proceeding to annihilate the British Army! Winston Churchill was considering how to announce an unprecedented military catastrophe involving the death or capture of a third of a million solders!
But it didn’t happen! On 23rd May, King George VI requested that the following Sunday should be turned into a national day of prayer! Late on the Saturday evening the military decision was taken to evacuate as many as possible of the Allied forces. On the Sunday, the nation devoted itself to prayer in an unprecedented way. Eyewitnesses and photographs confirm overflowing congregations in places of worship across the land. Long queues formed outside cathedrals. The same day an urgent request went out for boats of all sizes and shapes to cross the English Channel to rescue the besieged army, a call ultimately answered by around 800 vessels.
Yet even before the nation prayed God began to answer.
Three miracles occurred:
The first miracle
The first was that for some reason, which has never yet been fully explained, Hitler overruled his generals and halted the advance of his armoured columns at the very point when they could have proceeded to the British army’s annihilation. They were now only ten miles away! Later, Mr Churchill asserted in his memoirs that this was because Hitler undoubtedly believed ‘that his air superiority would be sufficient to prevent a large-scale evacuation by sea.’ That is very significant in terms of the second miracle.
The second miracle
A storm of unprecedented fury broke over Flanders on Tuesday, 28th May 1940 grounding the German Luftwaffe squadrons and enabling the British army formations, now eight to twelve miles from Dunkirk, to move up on foot to the coast in the darkness of the storm and the violence of the rain, with scarcely any interruption from aircraft, which were unable to operate in such turbulent conditions. Hitler had obviously not taken the weather into his reckoning, nor the One who speaks to the wind and the waves!
The third miracle
Despite the storm in Flanders, a great calm, such as has rarely been experienced, settled over the English Channel during the days which followed, and its waters became as still as a mill pond. It was this quite extraordinary calm which enabled a vast armada of little ships, big ships, warships, privately owned motor-cruisers from British rivers and estuaries – in fact, almost anything that would float – to ply back and forth in a desperate bid to rescue as many of our men as possible. Some might say it was all a coincidence but seemingly it wasn’t considered to be so at the time. Sunday 9th June was declared a National day of Thanksgiving and encouraged by Churchill himself, the phrase ‘the miracle of Dunkirk’ began to circulate.
It is so encouraging to read about God responding to such an outpouring of prayer. Three outstanding miracles happened, so let’s be encouraged when we pray to see God move again in our nation and in the nations of Europe. My prayer is that this small part of history will encourage and build up your faith whenever you pray. Let’s believe for extraordinary answers to our prayers. Our God can do anything you know, far more than we can ever imagine, guess or request in our wildest dreams (Ephesians 3:20 – The Message)