Summary: As people of faith we need to be people of prayer but even more than that, people of breakthrough prayer, asking God to break through in situations where there is nothing else we can do. We need breakthrough prayer in our cities.
It started out as a prayer meeting some forty years before. This prayer meeting was not without its detractors, at least not outside the Church of St. Nicholas in Leipzig Germany. Those who attended the prayer meeting were harassed and threatened on a fairly regular basis. Still, Monday night after Monday night people came to participate in the prayer meeting at the large old cathedral in the former East Germany. The group also started to grow and the police began to take notice. One night following the prayer service several attendees along with the leadership of the group encountered a group of police and were attacked. Still people kept coming and they kept praying. They prayed for their nation, for freedom, and for peace. Prayer wasn’t exactly encouraged in the former East Germany and prayers for freedom and peace would have been absolutely discouraged by the national leadership.
As time passed, and the group continued to grow and then something unexpected happened. The government unexpectedly let people leave the country to immigrate to other parts of Europe and the world. When the immigrants left, their places were taken by people who were determined to stay and work for change. They kept coming back to
church, week after week, sharing, praying, drawing spiritual strength for their struggle, just the way men and women went to church night after night during the Civil Rights marches of the 60s to find the strength to go out and face the struggle again.
The police continued their violent attacks on members of the prayer group. On September 4, 1989 the pastor and a small group with him were attached. Instead of retaliation, the pastor started teaching the principles of nonviolent resistance based on the Gospel as interpreted by Ghandi and applied by Martin Luther King and the group continued to grow and pray. They even picked up a name, becoming known as The New Form which would eventually become the opposition party.
They were a determined group who wouldn’t quit growing. The more they prayed, the more people came. On September 25, 1989 more than 6000 people packed the cathedral of St. Nickolas. There were another 25,000 waiting outside to join the protest march. And the rest, as they say, is history.
So what was the point? Why pray in a nation living under an atheist ideology? Really, why bother? Russia had fallen into this ideology some thirty years prior to East Germany. Nothing there had changed. It might even seem to some, that God had abandoned them. There might even be some people out there who would argue, “who could blame God for abandoning them? In their 20th century history they had been at the root of two world wars and had not only allowed Hitler to come to power, they actually encouraged it.
Most any of those East Germans would probably have admitted they deserved no such help from God but then again, neither do we. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Oh, and just in case you are wondering, that is in the Bible.
The East German’s prayer had actually been pretty simple and they knew God had not abandoned them. They also knew that simple prayers can have the most impact. And their prayers did have impact. Their prayer was for change for their nation. They prayed for freedom and peace. Those prayers changed the world.
Here’s the thing. These folks were praying for God to make changes that were beyond the people’s ability to make. If I have a bad habit I want to give up, I have it in my ability to make such a change. It may not be easy, but it is something I have the ability to do. It might also be easier if God is there and helping me to break this bad habit. It is a change I can make where I may or may not need God to help me out as I try to resolve the situation.
On the other hand, there are things none of us can change. There are things all of us together cannot change. It is at times like these only God can make a way. Only God can make a way when there is no way.
What that East German group was trying to do is the very definition of breakthrough prayer. This morning we are continuing our five part series on breakthrough prayer. This series was inspired by the messages, particularly the second message, of Rev. Sue Nillsen Kibey at this year’s session of annual conference. In this message Rev. Kibey defined breakthrough prayer as prayer where we ask God to break through, doing the work that only God can do.
We began this series three weeks ago and talked about breakthrough prayer in our families. All of us have people in our families who stand in need of things that can only be done by God. It might be healing or repairing a relationship. It could be financial or vocational. It could be problems with kids or problems with parents, or even both. The list of possibilities is endless and that is just within our families.