(This article is the historical account of a miraculous prayer walk that preceded one of the greatest spiritual and geopolitical victories of the past century. Be encouraged that our God who did that then can do it again now.)
“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
That iconic line, delivered on June 12, 1987, by the genius communicator President Ronald Reagan, was one of the most effective moments in America’s leadership for global freedom.
President Reagan spoke to the world, declaring a policy of freedom. He called upon the general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, to tear down the Berlin wall that had encircled West Berlin and controlled the lives of 2 million people living under the curse of communism.
Reagan’s speech was strategically delivered in front of the Brandenburg Gate. This beautiful, historic gate was chosen as the backdrop not only because it was part of the Berlin Wall (literally separating people living under military occupation from those living in freedom), but also because the 200-year-old Brandenburg Gate was a symbol of freedom fighters over the centuries.
Although some believe that Reagan’s bold command is the reason that wall came down two years later, there is more to the story. For almost 40 years, the Soviet-dominated East German Communist Party had ruled East Germany with an iron fist. Dictator Erich Honecker threatened that death or imprisonment awaited anyone who dared to defy the German Democratic Republic (GDR).
There was a small group of men who were willing to fight against that oppressive force — though perhaps not in the way you would think. About five years before Reagan’s famous speech, in 1982, the Rev. Christian Führer and some other pastors started a simple prayer meeting they called Prayers for Peace. Every Monday the faithful would gather, light 40 candles (representing the Israelites’ 40 years in the wilderness), and pray for peace in Germany.
At the very same time, an urgency to pray for change on the other side of the Iron Curtain had been gripping the members of IFA. At a 1982 national conference, Johannes Facius, head of Intercessors for Denmark, addressed several top priorities for prayer. The first was “that communist world power be broken.” This remained a prayer priority for years. American intercessors had no way of knowing that their prayers were undergirding a movement in East Germany and across the entire Eastern bloc.
For some time, the authorities ignored Pastor Führer and his prayer meetings. Eventually, however, attendance grew into the thousands, and the GDR could no longer turn a blind eye. Spies began infiltrating the meetings and recording the names of those present. Agents of the GDR tried to intimidate Pastor Führer — once even leaving him out in the snow to die. Numerous people who attended the prayer meetings got fired from their jobs, even though the meetings had no political agenda. Young people then took the place of their parents at these prayer meetings, because they had no jobs to lose.
Despite persecution, attendees continued interceding for several years. They saw little by way of tangible answers to prayer during those years. The only “answer” some could point to was Reagan’s speech, and even with that, two years had passed and the wall still stood.
Then, on Oct. 9, 1989, Pastor Führer convened the meeting as usual, but this time sensed that the Lord desired they do something different that week as they prayed. Candles were handed out to the attendees, with instructions that they should light their candles, leave the church building, and march peacefully to the center of the city.
The GDR army, meanwhile, hearing that a prayer walk was being organized, mobilized troops and even tanks to line the street leading from the church to the city center.
Knowing they could suffer the loss of their jobs, or even their lives, some 2,000 intercessors courageously emerged from the church, willing to accept any consequences. They were greatly surprised to see that 100,000 candle-carrying Germans had come out in support of their prayer march.
Together, they walked, despite the GDR troops who lined the streets, armed with machine guns and backed by Russian tanks. Never before had the GDR leadership allowed this kind of defiance. Previously, the troops would have shot any such demonstrators.
What happened next is unexplainable in human terms. The demonstrators bravely approached the soldiers, who were also fellow Germans, and offered them lighted candles. Miraculously, the soldiers began putting down their weapons to receive the candles. Soon, all the soldiers had lowered their guns and joined the protestors. The Russian tanks backed up and returned to the barracks.
This prayerful demonstration broke the power of communist Russia. It became clear that Honecker’s dictatorship could not continue. The following week, Honecker resigned. One month later, the Berlin Wall came down.
In the weeks following Honecker’s resignation and after Gorbachev began tearing down the wall, the disgraced GDR leaders publicly admitted this: “We were ready for anything — except candles and prayers.”
When this article was originally published on IFApray.org, Antje Bakalov posted in the comments this eyewitness testimony of that historic prayer demonstration:
“I grew up in Leipzig. I was 15 years old when the wall fell. It was truly amazing. The demonstrations happened every Monday at 7pm. One Monday my school class was watching a movie at the Main Train Stations movie theatre. When we came out the entire train station was full of soldiers who pointed guns at us. Somehow, I remember thinking they looked very confused not sure what to do. We were told not to dare going to the Demonstration or be kicked out of school. But that sounded more like a challenge than a threat to a bunch of teenagers and many of us went. I wasn’t a believer back then and my parents had always kept me shielded from knowing too much out of fear I’d ask too many questions and get us in trouble. But that demonstration was an eye opener on so many levels and even though I didn’t know God, I remember feeling this awesome presence I couldn’t describe or understand at the time. I believe even now as believers stand up and pray and do what we can, there are others like I used to be on the sidelines that certainly are being touched and effected for a future time … “
Do you see any walls in our national life today that you think need to come down? Ask God to bring down every such wall — and to inspire us to keep praying with perseverance and courage.
(Photo Credit: Getty Images, Berliners celebrating on the Berlin Wall in December 1989)
This story is recounted in IFA’s new book, Inspired Stories: 50 Years of Answered Prayer. Click here to get your copy!
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