J.John talks about the National Day of Prayer during Dunkirk 1940
By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service
CHORLEYWOOD, HERTFORDSHIRE, UK (ANS – July 18, 2017) — It’s beginning to look as if one of the unmissable films of summer is going to be Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk (Warner Brothers).
Rusty Wright, our ANS film reviewer describes it as “WW2 Mayhem and Miracles.”
He writes, “The film reminds us of one of the more extraordinary events of the Second World War. Dunkirk – both the film and the entire story – can inspire today’s generation to persist in opposing evil despite overwhelming odds. The film omits the national prayer element, but the film website (http://unlock.dunkirkmovie.com/) includes it. Knowing the whole story especially made me want to stand up and cheer as I watched.”
And now, the Revd. Canon J.John, an international evangelist and author based in the United Kingdom, has written insightful story about the film and the great event that took place in May 1940, when Germany advanced into France, trapping Allied troops on the beaches of Dunkirk.
“Most of us are uneasy about war stories, particularly those that revel in the quantity of death and destruction we unleashed on our enemies,” he wrote in a story provided to ASSIST News Service. “In fact, for the Second World War there are now only three big military events that retain a hold in the public memory. These are Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain and D-Day. I find it significant that each of these echoes with the great themes of the Bible: Dunkirk is about rescue; the Battle of Britain about deliverance and D-Day about liberation. Dunkirk, however, is a uniquely enthralling story. Who can resist the tale of how, surrounded by overwhelming enemies and faced with imminent annihilation, an entire army escaped to safety by sea? It almost seems like a reworking of the miracle of the biblical Exodus, with the English Channel replacing the Red Sea.
“Yet Dunkirk is not simply a gripping story; it is also a thought-provoking one because even today the word ‘miracle’ hangs over it. Nevertheless, even for the most sceptical, the reality of what happened at Dunkirk is intriguing.
“If you don’t know the story, on May 10th 1940, Hitler unleashed a military onslaught on France and Belgium. Within days the British Army – outmanoeuvred and unprepared – along with soldiers of other Allied nations, found themselves with their backs to the sea and hemmed in by enemies. The German High Command was able to boast with confidence that its troops were ‘proceeding to annihilate the British Army’. That the total destruction of an entire army was imminent was a view shared by many in the military and political leadership of Britain. Prime Minister Winston Churchill found himself preparing to announce to the public an unprecedented military catastrophe involving the capture or death of a third of a million soldiers.
“But it didn’t happen. On May 23rd, King George VI requested that the following Sunday should be observed as 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 praying began (in my experience, prayer often works like that) curious events were happening. In a decision that infuriated his generals and still baffles historians, Hitler ordered his army to halt. Had they continued to fight, the destruction of the Allied forces would have been inevitable and the war would have taken a different, darker and more terrible path. Yet for three days the German tanks and soldiers stood idle while the evacuation unfolded. Not only so, bad weather on the Tuesday grounded the Luftwaffe, allowing Allied soldiers to march unhindered to the beaches. In contrast, on Wednesday the sea was extraordinarily calm, making the perilous evacuation less hazardous. By the time the German Army was finally ordered to renew its attack, over 338,000 troops had been snatched from the beaches, including 140,000 French, Belgian, Dutch and Polish soldiers. Many of them were to return four years later to liberate Europe.”
J.John went onto say, “Now you could argue it was all a coincidence, but I think not. It certainly wasn’t considered so at the time. Sunday June 9th was declared a National Day of Thanksgiving and, encouraged by Churchill himself, the phrase ‘the miracle of Dunkirk’ began to circulate.
“We live in a world where people are not simply cautious about miracles but they prefer to rule them out entirely. In much of public culture it is an unchangeable and unbreakable rule of life that the miraculous cannot and does not occur. The view is that while we may pray, there is no one on the other end of the line. It’s curious how we have come a full circle: in the past, few dared argue with the religious faith that saw the hand of God everywhere; now few dare argue against the atheistic faith that sees God’s hand nowhere. The events of Dunkirk might make us want to reconsider the elimination of God as an actor from history and politics. On a more practical level, looking at the challenges facing the British nation, the idea of praying to God for deliverance seems to be something well worth encouraging.
“Indeed, I think Dunkirk stands as an extraordinary encouragement to pray in faith. However great our problems, God is greater than them all. That ‘Dunkirk encouragement’ to pray in times of need applies at every level of life and to every challenge, from what may be a petty domestic crisis to a national disaster. And although our nation may not face imminent military catastrophe on the scale that it did in 1940, you don’t have to look hard to see major and overwhelming problems. Dunkirk may have been a military epic that should be remembered but, far more importantly, it is an encouragement to pray.”
About J.John: The Revd. CanonJ.John, lives in Chorleywood, Hertfordshire in England. He is married to Killy and they have three sons and one daughter-in-law. He established the Philo Trust as a charity in 1980 in Nottingham, but moved to Chorleywood, England in 1997. The purpose of Philo Trust is to support J.John in his ministry. “Philo” is the Greek word for brotherly love. Philo Trust has a number of associates, including Christine Caine and Andrew White. Philo Trust supports their associates in improving the livelihood of the international community.
To date, J.John has completed thousands of speaking engagements at conferences, towns, cities and universities in 69 countries on six continents. Some of these include the United States of America, Australia, Singapore, and numerous countries across Africa and Europe. J.John has spoken at churches such as Hillsong Church Australia, Prestonwood Baptist Church, Gateway, C3 Oxford Falls, City Harvest Church, International Christian Fellowship, Holy Trinity Brompton, and Hillsong Church London. He has also spoken at several Christian conferences throughout the world including; Hillsong Colour Conference, Presence Conference, Joyce Meyer Conference, Soul Survivor, New Wine and others. He has completed at least 102 university/college engagements.
Lord Carey of Clifton, the former Archbishop of Canterbury said, “J.John is a speaker of national and international repute. I regard the work of J.John as being of primary importance. Sir Cliff Richard said, “It’s really hard to communicate if people don’t like you. I’ve heard J.John speak. He appealed to everyone. He was funny and he made us think – instant communication.”
For more information about J.John, click here (http://www.canonjjohn.com/jjohn).
www.DunkirkMovie.com Opens July 21 (North America), and for international release dates, go to: http://www.dunkirkmovie.com/releasedates/
Rated PG-13 (USA) “for intense war experience and some language.”
Note: To read Rusty Wright’s story about Dunkirk, please go to: http://assistnews.net/index.php/component/k2/item/3074-dunkirk-movie-ww2-mayhem-and-miracles
Photo captions: 1) Dunkirk film poster. 2) J.John. 3) King George VI with his wife, Elizabeth, later known as the Queen Mother, visiting a bombed-out area of London. 4) Soldiers at Dunkirk beach await evacuation. Copyright © 2017 Warner Bros. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Photo: Melinda Sue Gordon. 5) Dan Wooding at the microphone during his “Front Page Radio” show at KWVE Radio in Southern California.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 76, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for more than 54 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS). He is also the author of some 45 books and has two US-based TV programs –- “Windows on the World” (with Garry Ansdell) and “Inside Hollywood with Dan Wooding” — which are both broadcast on the Holy Spirit Broadcasting Network (http://hsbn.tv/), and also a weekly radio show called “Front Page Radio” on the KWVE Radio Network (www.kwve.com).
You may republish this or any of our ANS stories with attribution to the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net). Please tell your friends and colleagues that they can receive a complimentary subscription to our news service by going to the above ANS website and signing up there.