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The Power of Prayer

by glynch — last modified 29 Sep, 2014 03:04 PM

Can the peaceful end of East Germany's dictatorship renew our hope in the power of prayer?

The Power of Prayer

Christian Führer in 2008. Photo (c) Mario Schulze, Leipzig. Shared under Creative Commons 3.0 licence.

by the Revd Steve Jarvis

On June 30, Pastor Christian Führer died in Leipzig aged 71. The name will mean nothing to many - it did to me if I’m honest . And yet Christian Führer was a one of the great Christian leaders of the late 20th century. But until I was recycling newspapers, and stumbled cross his obituary in The Independent newspaper last week, I wasn’t aware of him – though I was well aware of his actions.

Mr Führer was born during the Second World War in Nazi Germany. With the ending of the war he found himself in East Germany living under Communist rule.  

In 1980 he became pastor of the Church of St Nicholas in Leipzig. It was at this church he started Monday evening prayers for peace. Gradually over several years these became the focal point for East Germans protesting against the regime led by Erich Honecker.

On Monday October 9, 1989 about 70,000 people took to the streets – in peace at Pastor Führer’s urging – to protest, after 500 Honecker loyalists had occupied the seats of the church during the prayer session. Clutching candles and flowers the people peacefully protested. There were few arrests and no bloodshed. One police officer said afterwards “We were ready for anything except candles and prayer”

Leipzig Monday DemonstrationsThe following week 120,000 people turned up for the vigil. The week after that 320,000. On November 9 the Berlin Wall came down. I am one of those Christians who really struggles with prayer. I know I should pray more than I do. I find it difficult to find the right words. I lead prayers week in week out for peace in the world and look at the state the world is in. I look at the divisions in this country, and know I’ve prayed about that, and things continue the same way. And I wonder … what is the point?

But then I read Christian Führer’s story and I have to think again. For this story shows me the power of prayer. Yes, I still wonder why, if so many people are praying for  transformation between Israel and Gaza say, why doesn’t God do something? But then maybe the secret lies in the story of Christian Führer and the Leipzig protests. Not only were the people in his church praying for peace, they ensured peace was practised not just preached as it were. (Surely though there must have been something miraculous in a protest of 70,000 not turning violent?)

"We experienced it together," he said of his role in toppling the old regime. "Thousands in the churches, hundreds of thousands on the street around the city centre. Not one broken shop window. The unbelievable experience of the power of non-violence." (Quoted in his obituary in The Independent, July 9 2014.)

Maybe if we in our churches were more focused in our prayer things would be different? Or maybe Christians, powered by prayer, need to take to the streets on occasion?

This article was originally published in the written of Holy Trinity, Dilton Marsh with All Saints, Brokerswood.

Lower image: The "Monday Demonstrations" which followed church services at St Nicholas' Church in Leipzig in 1989. (C) The German Federal Picture Archive, Licensed under Creative Commons 3.0.

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