When British forces were trapped by German troops on the beaches of Dunkirk in 1940 the outlook was bleak. Surrounded and vulnerable it seemed our nation would soon succumb to Nazi force. But in an hour of extraordinary need, an event unfolded that demonstrated the eternal power of prayer, says Pam Rhodes

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In the annals of history, there are moments when the collective heartbeat of a nation aligns with the divine. Such was that moment during the second world war – a time of darkness, despair and unyielding struggle for our nation against the evil and tyranny of Adolf Hitler’s Germany.

Britain stood on the precipice, her spirit battered, her resolve tested and her future uncertain. But in that hour of need, an extraordinary event unfolded – one that would echo through generations.

Operation Dynamo

It was 26 May 1940. The beaches of Dunkirk bore witness to a desperate evacuation. The British Expeditionary Force, trapped by the German onslaught, faced imminent destruction and the death of over 338,000 allied troops. The skies were grey, and the hearts of the nation heavier still. King George VI, sensing the gravity of the moment, turned to a timeless force: prayer.

In a radio address, he called for a National Day of Prayer. The nation responded – and millions of citizens thronged to churches across the nation. Their prayers rose like incense, intertwining with the courage of those who sailed across the treacherous English Channel. Ordinary civilians – fishermen, boatmen and brave men and women of all ages manned a flotilla of vessels with just one mission on their hearts: to rescue our stranded soldiers from the jaws of defeat.

Against all odds, the Dunkirk Miracle unfolded. Just as God created the storm that floated Noah’s Ark, on 28 May 1940, an unprecedented storm broke over Flanders, grounding the German Luftwaffe. The Nazi planes were unable to attack, allowing more allied troops to advance towards Dunkirk safely. Light easterly winds blew smoke over the beaches, screening the soldiers waiting to be evacuated and cloud cover between 28 and 30 May obscured the beaches, preventing Luftwaffe bombings.

When nations bow their heads, miracles unfold

These God-made natural elements provided cover and protection for the allied force, and the Dunkirk evacuation, codenamed Operation Dynamo, was launched. The volunteer armada comprised British, French and Belgian fishing boats, tugboats, lifeboats, barges, ferry boats and pleasure craft of all sizes and descriptions. Those tiny boats – guided by faith and fuelled by prayer – ferried over 300,000 soldiers to safety. The impossible became reality. The nation’s tears of fear turned to tears of gratitude. The power of collective prayer had shifted the tides of war.

Answered prayer today

Fast forward to today and to Coleshill, a quiet corner of England, which is poised to witness another marvel – the Eternal Wall of Answered Prayer. This ambitious initiative aims to build a monument – a literal wall – composed of one million bricks. Each brick represents a story of answered prayer; a testament to hope.

The parallels are striking. Just as King George VI rallied his people, the Eternal Wall of Answered Prayer calls upon us to share our stories of faith rewarded. Just as the stranded soldiers at Dunkirk hoped for deliverance, believers place their faith in God’s providence and salvation. That flotilla of civilian boats symbolises the unexpected help that arrives when all seems lost. The successful evacuation seemed miraculous, defying the odds, just as faith involves trusting in divine intervention even when circumstances appear dire. A diverse collection of little boats united for a common purpose just as in Christianity, believers form a global community called the Church, bound by shared faith and love.

Despite setbacks, the Dunkirk operation persisted. Faith requires endurance through trials, trusting that God’s plan unfolds over time. The Eternal Wall of Answered Prayer will bear witness to stories of healing, delivery, reconciliation and redemption. Each answered prayer is embedded into the very fabric of this monument. It’s a living memorial of prayers answered – a joyful mosaic of faith.

Imagine standing before that wall. Each brick whispers of miracles – modest and grand. A child’s recovery from illness, a family reunited, a broken heart made whole. These are not mere bricks; they are vessels of hope. They remind us that prayer transcends time and circumstance.

As we embark on this new endeavour, let us remember the lessons of Dunkirk. Prayer is not passive; it’s a living, breathing link. It unites us, fuels our resilience, and defies the odds. The Eternal Wall will stand as a beacon – a 50-metre-high reminder that our cries reach heaven’s throne.

So, whether you’re a sceptic or a believer, consider this: when nations bow their heads, miracles unfold. The Eternal Wall beckons us to add our own bricks – to inscribe our stories of faith. For in doing so, we become part of a legacy – a testament to the enduring power of prayer.

A new podcast ’When We Prayed: Miracles of WW II’ in partnership with Premier is now live. Check it out online and on all major Podcast platforms.