Crowds line up to enter Westminster Abbey on the National Day of Prayer, September 8, 1942. Services were held all over Britain, at King George VI’s request.
What do Haman, Hamas, England, Hitler, and Purim 2024 all have in common?
The Story of Haman
The story of Haman is a familiar one to Jews and Christians alike, as told in the book of Esther. King Ahaseurus (Xerxes 1) reigned in Persia (modern-day Iran) from 486-465 BCE. Esther is one of the young virgins brought into the king’s harem as a possible replacement for Vashti, his banished wife. Ahaseurus falls in love with Esther and makes her queen, all while she keeps her Jewish identity a secret. Meanwhile Haman, a court official, persuades the king to authorise a pogrom against all the Jews of the empire. Distraught, Esther fasts for three days and requests an audience with the king to plead on behalf of the Jews – on pain of death, for she cannot approach the king without first being summoned. In summary, the king grants her an audience, and grants her request to spare the Jews. He also decrees that Haman, his co-conspirators, and the Jews’ enemies are to be killed. To this day, Jews commemorate the event as the book of Esther instructs:
These days should be remembered and observed in every generation by every family, and in every province and in every city. And these days of Purim should never fail to be celebrated by the Jews—nor should the memory of these days die out among their descendants. Esther 9:28 (NIV)
National Days of Prayer in Britain
Hundreds of national days of prayer, fasts and thanksgivings in England can be traced back to 1535, with 21 being called for between 1899 and 1957, and seven in World War II. The situation in the first year of WWII was so dire that three national days of prayer were called for in 1940 alone: May 26 for Dunkirk, and August 11 and September 8 for the Battle of Britain (July 10 – October 31, 1940). (See footnote for outcomes of National Days of Prayer, including a downloadable pdf.)
The most famous example occurred at Dunkirk, May 26 – June 4, 1940. The German invasion of Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg began on May 10, the same day that Neville Chamberlain resigned as Prime Minister, and the same day that King George VI asked Winston Churchill to become PM and form a government. Luxembourg surrendered that same day; the Dutch surrendered on May 14, while the Belgians held out until May 28. Meanwhile, German forces had surrounded 338,000 British and French troops who were stranded at Dunkirk. Churchill and his advisors expected between 20,000 and 30,000 would survive.
On May 24, King George VI addressed the nation:
“Let us with one heart and soul, humbly but confidently, commit our cause to God and ask His aid, that we may valiantly defend the light as it is given to us to see it.”
Two days later, on Sunday, May 26, Britain responded with a National Day of Prayer. It was then that the Miracle of Dunkirk unfolded.
The Miracle of Dunkirk
First, the harbour mole (an 8-foot-wide, half-mile-long breakwater wall) served as a makeshift dock for larger ships and destroyers, conveniently rescuing the bulk of the troops.
Second, Hitler had mysteriously issued a Halt Order on May 24 that lasted for about 48 hours, which bought precious time to evacuate the troops and set up defenses.
Third, and most importantly, the weather cooperated. Light easterly winds blew the smoke from the burning port of Dunkirk across the beach, offering cover from air attack. Light winds also meant light surf, allowing hundreds of smaller craft to land on the beach and ferry the troops out to larger boats offshore. Cloud cover from May 28 – 30 obscured the beaches and grounded the Luftwaffe, protecting the troops from air attack. A storm on May 28 at Flanders 100 km away (by air), grounded the Luftwaffe there. Thick fog on May 31 covered the English Channel, protecting evacuating Allied troops from German air attacks. But for nine days, the usually rough seas at that time of year in the English Channel remained “as calm as a mill pond,” “a bathtub with barely a ripple to disturb the journey,” which became known as the Miracle of Dunkirk.
Churchill called this “a miracle of deliverance” in his famous “We shall fight on the beaches” speech to the House of Commons on June 4, 1940. I call it an answer to prayer.
The Israel-Hamas War
On October 7, 2023 Hamas launched its brutal attack on Israel, killing 1,200 Jews and taking 250 hostages. This was the bloodiest day in modern Israel’s history and the deadliest for Jews since the Holocaust, with the war set to continue for several more months at the very least. World opinion has bizarrely shifted its initial support of Israel (the victims), to Hamas and the Palestinians (the perpetrators). Antisemitism is at an alarming all-time high worldwide. Israel, the victims of genocide during the Holocaust, is now in the invidious position of having to defend herself against charges of genocide against the Palestinians at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Israel is under increasing pressure from her enemies – and allies alike – to come to a ceasefire.
So what do Haman, Hamas, England, Hitler, and Purim 2024 all have in common?
- A nation in crisis;
- her enemies hell-bent on her destruction;
- and a plea for her leaders to call the nation to prayer.
- her enemies hell-bent on her destruction;
- A nation in crisis;
A National Day of Prayer
In Britain it was King George VI who called for a National Day of Prayer during one of her darkest hours, which saw churches across Britain packed with people, praying.
In Israel, her darkest hour since the Holocaust, this call to prayer must similarly come from the top, from Israel’s political and military leaders, the War Cabinet, the Knesset, leading Rabbis, the nascent Sanhedrin – all the way up to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog.
And the best time to call for a National Day of Prayer would be to coincide with Purim 2024, from the evening of March 23 – March 24. Normally Purim is a time for Jews to celebrate their victory over Haman and his followers who sought to destroy them. But I submit that it is time for Israel’s leaders to call for an Esther 3-day fast and prayer culminating on March 24, 2024:
Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. Esther 4:15-16 (NIV)
Esther was called to her royal position “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). Who knows that these words in the book of Joel weren’t written specifically for Israel “for such a time as this?”
“Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave behind a blessing — grain offerings and drink offerings for the Lord your God.
Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly.
Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. Let the priests, who minister before the Lord, weep between the portico and the altar. Let them say, “Spare your people, Lord. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’” Joel 2:12-17 (NIV, emphasis is mine)
And what does the Lord say He will do if His people “return to Him with all their hearts, with fasting and weeping and mourning” (Joel 2:12)?
Then the Lord was jealous for his land and took pity on his people. The Lord replied to them: “I am sending you grain, new wine and olive oil, enough to satisfy you fully; never again will I make you an object of scorn to the nations. “I will drive the northern horde far from you, pushing it into a parched and barren land; its eastern ranks will drown in the Dead Sea and its western ranks in the Mediterranean Sea. And its stench will go up; its smell will rise.” Joel 2:18-20 (NIV)
It is time for Israelis to petition their local rabbis and Members of the Knesset, to ask President Herzog and Prime Minister Netanyahu to call for a National Day of Prayer.
It is time for Israel to have a spiritual awakening and return to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to transition from being the secular nation “Israel” founded in 1948, to becoming the spiritual nation “Zion” in 2024.
It is time for Israel to beseech Hashem to deliver His people from her enemies, and give her victory!
It is time for the nascent Sanhedrin to find its rightful place in the heart of Israeli politics – to be a theocracy for “good” as an essential counterbalance to Iran’s theocracy for “evil”. For how else can Israel’s spiritual mandate – to be “a light unto the nations” (Isaiah 42:6) – ever be fulfilled otherwise?
It is time for Christians to petition their leaders – John Hagee, Rick Joyner, Joel Richardson, Cindy Jacobs, Mike Bickle, Rick Warren et al, from small churches to mega churches, from Catholic priests to Protestant ministers alike – to call on Christians worldwide to stand with Israel – to fast and pray alongside her – in her darkest hour since the Holocaust.
And the time to do this is on Purim 2024, March 23-24.
- Esther and the Jewish nation fasted and prayed, and God delivered them from their enemies.
- King George VI and Britain fasted and prayed for Dunkirk, and they had a “miracle of deliverance” from their enemies.
- Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Herzog: CALL THE NATION TO FAST AND PRAY, so that God may give you victory and deliver you from your enemies!
Then perhaps, if Israel fasts, prays, and returns to the Lord their God, we will also see this scripture fulfilled:
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV)
A transcript of part of King George VI’s speech is as follows:
At this fateful hour we turn as our fathers before us have turned in all times of trial to God, the most high. Here in the old country I have asked that Sunday next should be observed as a day of national affair. It may be possible for many of our brothers about the seas to join their prayers with ours. Let us with one heart and soul, humbly but confidently, commit our cause to God and ask His aid, that we may valiantly defend the light as it is given to us to see it. So now the peoples of the Empire, for men and women in all quarters of the globe, I say to you: Put into your tasks whatever it may be, all of the courage and purpose of which you are capable. Keep your heart proud and your resolve unshaken. Let us go forward to that task as one man, a smile on our lips and our heads held high, and with God’s help we shall not fail.
Day of Prayer 1940: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zbUqeYnyxw
Day of Prayer 1942: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NIU6tSyzvjg