Leipzig, East Germany
In 1971 the pastor of St Nicholas Church in Leipzig, East Germany called people to pray for peace every Monday night. To begin with there were no more than a dozen people, in this cavernous building where Bach had premiered some of his finest choral pieces.
Such a response would be enough to make some of us think it wasn't worth doing, but they persisted until 7 years later a 13-year old boy called Markus Lagel (who years later would be part of developing prayer communities throughout Eastern Europe) watched in amazement as 8,000 people crammed into the church to pray for peace.
Outside on the streets and in other churches throughout the city as many as 70,000 people had gathered to pray. Also, outside there were barricades in the streets, beatings, death threats, and hundreds of armed police expecting a riot.
The Government had threatened to shut down the prayer meeting that night. Doctors were setting up emergency clinics, anticipating casualties. On the way into the church Markus had glimpsed shadowy figures with guns on the rooftops. Surely it was crazy to fight military strength with prayer. But as he looked around he thought, ”but there is power too in this building tonight”
After about an hour the pastor led the people out into the streets chanting "no violence”. Surprisingly the police didn’t open fire. Within a week the prayer rally for peace had grown to 120,000 and within a fortnight 300,000 people had joined in. Four weeks later, to the day, the Berlin Wall came tumbling down.
One Communist official said: “We were prepared for every eventuality, but not for candles, and not for prayers.”
Picture now, a dark tiny room where a 13-year-old girl has been locked. and repeatedly forced to have sex. When she was rescued by the International Justice Mission they discovered that she had scribbled on the wall of her prison these words from Psalm 27:
“When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh… my heart will not fear.”
In her desperation this girl had cried out to the God of liberation. And he heard her cries and responded.
It seems to me that at times we think some things are to huge to pray about, or perhaps we’ve been praying for something for so long that we begin to feel that we may as well give up.
The people in East Germany prayed for 7 years. The girl in the brothel wrote her prayer on the wall so she could see it daily. Nothing is impossible for the God of love and freedom. Whatever our circumstances we can live in the assurance that we have a heavenly father than we can run to, again and again, with whatever troubles us.
Inspired by material in "Red Moon Rising" by Pete Greig
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