A Google search provided innumerable instances where Australian Prime Ministers have said something along the lines of "the nation is praying for / with …... " such as current Prime Minister Tony Abbott's remarks on the loss of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.
I found many similar "documented statements" of similar ilk including Prime Minister's Kevin Rudd, Bob Hawke, Malcolm Fraser, Gough Whitlam, Bob Menzies, Ben Chiefly, John Curtain and Billy Hughes. If memory serves me well Julia Gillard and Paul Keating spoke of such as well, but I was unable to find references to this.
I wondered about this topic of an Australian Prime Minister's calling the nation to prayer on a specific date having read Tremore Christian Fellowship, Tremore Manor, Bodmin published account of either King George VI, the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill's WWII or Commanders on the ground - ten occasions - the nation to prayer.
This article was republished in "Evangelicals Now" which was in turn republished by The Canberra Declaration Team which in turn was distributed by Ramon Williams Religious Media. So it's got a good airing (as it should have) and I'm pleased here to simply summarise these 10 calls for the nation to pray during WWII. (www.e-n.org.uk)
Like a walkway
Sunday May 26 at the request of His Majesty King George VI, observed as a National Day of Prayer. In a stirring broadcast, the King called the people of Britain and the empire to commit their cause to God. The whole nation was at prayer. Three miracles then happened: (1) Hitler stopped his general advance, (2) a storm of extraordinary fury grounded the German Air Force on May 28, and (3) a great calm settled over the English Channel for several days. 335,000 men of the British army were evacuated from Dunkirk!
The Battle of Britain
Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, Commander-in-Chief of Fighter Command, was asked: What are your plans for defeating an overwhelming number of the German Air Force? He replied: I believe in God. And then there is radar. On 30 August 800 enemy aircraft darkened the skies of southern England, flying in to put key airfields out of action. By September 6 Fighter Command was in serious trouble.
The King, as if gifted with some foreknowledge, had expressed the wish that Sunday September 8 should be fixed as a National Day of Prayer. There was a tremendous response. At a crowded service in Westminster Abbey, the final prayer began: Remember O God, for good, these watchmen, who by day and by night climb into the air. Let Thy hand lead them, we beseech Thee, and Thy right hand hold them.
On September 17, a tele-type message clacked out from the German High Command postponing the invasion of Britain ?until further notice.
There were later divine over rulings in the Mediterranean, the outstanding example being Malta, which lay in the path of Italy's vital supply lines to North Africa. General Dobbie was appointed Governor of Malta. He was a Christian, a man of faith who testified to the power of prayer. He issued an Order of the Day to the garrison which included the following: I know that the courage and determination of all ranks will not falter, and that with God's help we will maintain the security of the fortress.
The Germans seemed strangely blind in failing to see that the key to all supply problems, and, indeed, the key to control of the Mediterranean, was the capture of Malta.
Creeks provided protection
At the gates of Cairo
Two dedicated Christian men were appointed to the most responsible positions in the Middle East on August 15 1942: Field Marshal Alexander as Commander-in-Chief and General Montgomery as Commander of the Eighth Army.
On September 3, according to the wish of King George VI, there was another National Day of Prayer. People flocked to the churches all over Britain.
On October 23 Montgomery issued this Order of the Day to the Eighth Army: Let us pray that the Lord, mighty in battle, will give us the victory. A succession of remarkable occurrences followed. When the attack on the German forces was opened, Rommel was in Germany, sick for the first time in his life. General Stumme, appointed to take his place, died of a heart attack the next day, leaving the German High Com-mand in a hopeless state of confusion. At the same time, Rommel's Chief of Staff was actually on leave. And, due to faulty intelligence, the Afrika Korps was completely taken off its guard when the bombardment began.
Churchill said afterwards concerning the battle of Alamein: Before Alamein we never had a victory. After Alamein we never had a defeat.?
A bumper harvest
During 1942 shipping normally used to bring food to these shores from overseas was urgently required for carrying men and munitions. Yet Britain had to be fed. A supreme effort was made by British agriculture and a degree of co-operation and united labour was achieved as never before in our history. Added to this were the prayers of innumerable people that God would bless their efforts.
There was a bumper harvest! It had become apparent to R.S. Hudson, the Minister of Agriculture, that God had been with us, for in a postscript to the BBC nine o'clock news on Old Michaelmas Night 1942, he said: I believe we have a Higher Power to thank as well, and from the depths of our hearts. Some power has wrought a miracle in the English harvest fields this summer, for in this, our year of greatest need, the land has given us bread in greater abundance than we have ever known before.
Many a creek guided the troops
D-Day 1944 deliverance of a continent
The deputy Chaplain-General, Canon Llewellyn Hughes, said: The consecration of our armies has not been a last-minute effort. We were asked, and strongly asked, to make our men as Christian as we could, to preach the Word faithfully because it is true; to bring men to God that he might make them good. Most of the men are not regular churchgoing men, but they are God-going men, and they have their picture of the King of Kings in the sanctuary of their hearts. And when General Eisenhower and General Montgomery in their final Orders of the Day asked us all to pray that God would prosper us, that prayer went up, and went up from honest hearts, freely and fully convinced that the business in hand was a liberation according to the will of God?
The decision when to invade
The Supreme Commander, his Commander-in-Chief and their Chiefs of Staff met at 4.00 am on Monday June 5 for the final and irrevocable decision. Messages went to all the vast forces concerned: the invasion of France would start on the morning of the next day. General Eisenhower gave testimony to the effect this had on him, when he was speaking in Abilene, Kansas, his home town on June 4 1952 (Time magazine June 16 1952). This day, eight years ago, I made the most agonising decision of my life. I had to decide to postpone, by at least 24 hours, the most formidable array of fighting ships and of fighting men that was ever launched across the sea against a hostile shore.
The consequences of that decision at that moment could not have been foreseen by anyone. If there was nothing else in my life to prove the existence of an Almighty and merciful God, the events of the next 24 hours did it. The greatest break in a terrible outlay of weather occurred the next day and allowed that great invasion to proceed, with losses far below those we had anticipated.?
On VE Day the Prime Minister spoke from the balcony of Buckingham Palace. He was one who had always been conscious of that over-ruling providence, that guiding, guardian hand. He must have come straight from the Thanksgiving Service in St. Margaret's, Westminster.
His Majesty King George VI then stepped quietly to the microphone. He said with great emphasis: We give thanks to Almighty God for the victory He has granted us in Europe.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html