- Monday, June 10, 2024

This week marks the 37th anniversary of President Ronald Reagan’s iconic speech at the Brandenberg Gate of the Berlin Wall. To be sure, President Reagan’s challenge, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” is a phrase that will go down in history as one of the most profound moments in America’s leadership as far as global freedom.

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As President Reagan stood in front of the world, he declared a policy of freedom. He called upon Mikhail Gorbachev, the General Secretary of the communist party of the Soviet Union, imploring him to tear down the Berlin wall that had encircled West Berlin for more than two decades. Under the curse of communism, this wall had controlled the lives of two million people.

Strategically positioned, this speech took place in front of the Brandenburg Gate. While this historic gate was indeed part of the Berlin Wall, literally separating those under military occupation from freedom, this was not the only reason for the backdrop of this monumental speech. This 200-year-old Brandenburg Gate has also become a memorial to freedom fighters for many centuries.

Most Americans would tell you that the Berlin Wall came down immediately after President Reagan’s speech. However, that is not the case. In actuality, the wall did not come down for another two years. And now, 37 years later, most people do not know about the miraculous prayer movement behind the dramatic events. 

For decades before President Reagan’s speech, the Soviet-dominated German Democratic Republic ruled East Germany with an iron fist. The dictator in the 1980s, Erick Honecker promised death or imprisonment to anyone who dared defy the GDR. Many lost their lives to this evil regime. Yet there was a small group of men willing to fight this force. But not in the way one might think. 

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In 1982, the Reverend Christian Führer and a select group of pastors from Leipzig began to meet every Monday evening. This gathering became known as Prayers for Peace. With Leipzig located a mere 120 miles south of Berlin, they were under the GDR’s dominion. Yet, each Monday these faithful pastors would meet and light 40 candles, which represented the Jew’s 40 years in the wilderness. Then they would pray for peace in Germany. 

In the beginning, the authorities ignored them, but as their attendance grew to thousands, the GDR could no longer turn a blind eye. Plain-clothed Stasi began to infiltrate the meetings and recorded the names of those in attendance. The GDR agents began to intimidate the leaders, and even once left Pastor Führer out in the snow to die. Many adults who attended the meetings were fired from their jobs. However, this did not deter these faithful prayer warriors. Even youths began to attend the meetings since they did not have a job to lose.  

Amid continual persecution, and with no visible answer to prayers, they continued to intercede in weekly gatherings through 1987. It was that year that President Reagan gave his historical speech. The prayer group sensed movement but had no tangible evidence, therefore they continued to pray and intercede. 

In October 1989, during their seventh year of Prayers for Peace, and two years after President Reagan’s speech, the leaders felt the Lord leading them to do something different that week as they convened. By the prompting of the Lord, they handed out candles to each attendee. They instructed the people to light their candles. They left the church building and began to peacefully march to the center of the city. Incidentally, the GDR army learned the plan of their peaceful prayer walk. They mobilized armed troops and even tanks to line the street that led from the church to the center of the city.

As a united group, the intercessors left the protection of the church, knowing they were taking their lives into their own hands as well as jeopardizing their jobs. A divine courage rested upon each one as they filled the streets with prayer and the light from their candles. They emerged from the church so committed to freedom that they were willing to accept any consequences that would inevitably come. Much to their surprise, they were joined by 100,000 fellow candle-carrying Germans in their march for freedom. Facing possible death, the peaceful intercessors marched directly in front of the armed GDR troops that lined the streets that day. 

Never before had Honecker allowed this kind of defiance. In times past, troops would have immediately shot and killed any demonstrators. The GDR soldiers had guns pointed at the demonstrators. Russian-made tanks lined up behind each soldier, ready with loaded machine guns. Still, the peaceful protesters continued to increase, as they marched on. The demonstrators began to bravely approach the soldiers, offering them a lighted candle. Miraculously, the soldiers began to lay down their weapons and accept the lighted candles, in fact, joining the protesters. Eventually, the tanks backed away and returned to base. 

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Antje Bakalov was there that night. She had grown up in Leipzig and was 15 years old at the time. That night she had attended a movie with her classmates.

“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 and unsure what to do. We were told not to dare go 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,” she recalled. 

Years of committed intercession culminating in this prayerful demonstration broke the power of Soviet communism that day. Clearly, Honecker’s leadership would not continue. Within days, he resigned, and the Soviet Premier Gorbachev began tearing down the Berlin Wall. Honecker said later, “We were ready for anything — except candles and prayer.”

Policy and historical speeches alone could not accomplish this task. It took fervent, committed intercession from faithful prayer warriors who refused to quit, to bring it to fruition. 

Today we face giants just as large as Soviet communism: cultural depravity sanctioned and enforced by the government, millions of lives lost to abortion, globalism, anarchic ideologies taking over universities, and more. Our commitment to prayer and intercession for the nation may be culminating in dramatic reversals we cannot yet see or imagine. Bakalov has words of wisdom from the lessons of Leipzig for today: “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 affected for a future time.”

David Kubal is President/CEO of Intercessors for America (IFA), which serves over one million praying Christians every month. David serves on the National Faith Advisory Board and the National Day of Prayer Task Force and is also frequently featured in national news outlets such as Victory Channel, CBN, and Fox News.

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