This is the third post in a short series on Rees Howells and the intercession of Wales Bible College during World War 2. Links to the other posts are found at the bottom of this page.
The war in Europe lasted over 2000 days. Every evening of every one of those days a group of students, professors and guests gathered in the student prayer room at Wales Bible College and interceded for specific aspects of the war. Many of their prayers are documented in Norman Grubb’s book Rees Howells, Intercessor.
Did God answer those prayers?
On June 22nd, 1941, Hitler launched a massive assault into the heart of Russia, his erstwhile ally and trading partner. Over four million troops participated in this invasion, over an 1800 mile front. It was the largest invasion in the history of warfare.
Seven weeks prior to the Nazi invasion, God revealed to Rees Howells that Hitler would turn that way. At first Howells saw this as God’s judgment on godless Communism, but when it began to appear that Hitler would defeat Russia and emerge stronger, the College began to pray that the Wehrmacht would be halted.
“Dr. Kenneth G. Symonds, F.R.C.S., who has been a member of the College staff for twelve years, tells us of the meeting that Sunday morning. “The Director opened his message by saying that the first thing the Lord had told him that morning was, ‘Pray that Moscow will not fall!’ It seemed ridiculously impossible for we had heard that its fall was inevitable; but although the prayer was so far beyond us, yet the Spirit ‘laid it on us.”
Moscow, miraculously, did not fall. Some historians have attributed this to the fact that Hitler sent the armored units of Army Group Center south to reduce the Kiev pocket, delaying the assault on Moscow. Others have cited the early and severe onset of winter. Still others go back to the June 22nd kick-off of the campaign, delayed by the use of German troops in the Balkans. But each of these proximate causes can also be seen as answers to the prayers of God’s people.
In the spring of 1942 the College began praying for the defeat of Erwin Rommel and the Afrika Corps. A big part of the motivation for these prayers was the threat that Rommel posed to the promised land, which God had already promised Howells would be restored to the Jews.
“ ‘Unless God will intervene on behalf of Palestine,’ said Mr. Howells on July 4,1942, “there will be no safety there for the Jews. These Bible Lands must be protected, because it is to these lands the Saviour will come back. If I had the choice today, I would say to God, ‘Take all I have, but preserve Palestine.’ We want to say to God today, ‘unless there is a special reason for Egypt to fall, don’t let Alexandria be taken, but give Rommel a setback.’ Can I carry the same burden today for Alexandria, as I would if Swansea were being attacked?’ It was a Saturday and there were not usually prayer meetings on Saturday afternoons; but that day the College was called to spend the afternoon in prayer for God to save Alexandria and turn the tide in North Africa. There was a heavy burden, but very great liberty in prayer.
By July 5, 1942, Rommel’s supplies, lessened by attacks all along his extended supply lines, were exhausted. Just outside El Alamein, he stopped and dug in.
“The following week they read in the news how, grave things had been in North Africa on that very Saturday when the extra prayer meeting was called, and it was over that week-end that the tide turned at El Alamein, and Alexandria was saved.”
During the winter of 1941/1942, the Germans were pushed back outside Moscow. With the coming of spring, Hitler mounted another offensive, aimed primarily at the Caucasus Region with it’s rich oil fields. After making significant gains, the offensive was halted at Stalingrad, on the Volga River.
“The attention of the College then had to be turned back again to the Russian campaign, if the Bible Lands were to be safe. The danger from the south was now over, but as the Germans, having failed in their attempt on Moscow, pressed eastward through southern Russia and approached Stalingrad, they were coming near the Caucasus Mountains. Once across that range, the door would be wide open to the Bible Lands from the north. Dr. Symonds tells us that “The Nazis had already penetrated the defenses of Stalingrad, and were fighting in the suburbs of the town, when quite unexpectedly the Director announced that the Holy Spirit was urging him to pray that Stalingrad should not fall.’”
“ ‘But this prayer for Stalingrad seemed the hardest of all to take hold of. For a whole fortnight we wrestled, the Spirit through His servant insisting that, the prayer having come from Him, we were to be responsible to see it through to a successful issue, as with Moscow.’”
“ ‘In spite of our cries the enemy continued to advance until half of the city was in his hands. The fighting there from house to house was some of the most desperate in the whole war; but the conflict in the Spirit was correspondingly desperate. Contrary to all human reason, as the news got darker, faith rose higher, until we found the enemy was giving way before us. At the same time the tide turned in the visible battle and, to the wonder of the world, the Nazi army was driven out again utterly” broken and demoralized. It was another mighty triumph of the Holy Spirit.’”
Norman Grubb offers the following summary: ““Some months later, with these four great prayer battles behind them — the invasion of Britain, Alexandria, Moscow and Stalingrad, the college were much interested to see an article published in the press by the military commentator, General J. R. C. Fuller, in which he gave four reasons for the impending doom of the Nazis. Hitler’s four blunders, he called them. Blunder No. 1 was missing the chance to invade Britain. Blunder No. 2, his failure to attack Egypt and gain Alexandria. Blunder No. 3, “Everything in the Russian. campaign depended on the fall of Moscow. Yet Hitler turned away to other objectives.” Blunder No. 4, “Hitler’s final mistake the great attack on Stalingrad.”
This is part three of a short series on the intercessory ministry of Rees Howells and the Wales Bible College
Russia and North Africa (this post)