Me: Prodigal, what are you reading today?
Prodigal: I am reading a short story. I love a good story!
Me: Today I have a true story to share with you.
Prodigal: Let me mark my place in this book and I am all ready!
I am going to share a story from Derek Prince exactly how he shares it. I think the story says enough and today you will just get this story.
From 1941 to 1943 I served as a hospital attendant with the British forces in North Africa. I was part of a small medical unit that worked with two British armored divisions–the First Armored Division and the Seventh Armored Division. It was this latter division that became celebrated as the “desert rats,” with the emblem of the white jerboa.
At that time the morale of the British forces in the desert was very low. The basic problem was that the men did not have confidence in their officers. I myself am the son of an army officer, and many of the friends with whom I grew up were from the same background. I thus had some valid standards of judgment. As a group, the officers in the desert at that time were selfish, irresponsible and undisciplined. Their main concern was not the well-being of the men, or the effective prosecution of the war, but their own physical comfort.
I recall one officer who became sick with malaria and was evacuated to a base hospital in Cairo. For his transportation to Cairo he required one four-berth ambulance to himself, and a one-and-a-half ton truck to carry his equipment and personal belongings. At that time we were continually being reminded that trucks and gasoline were in very short supply, and that every effort must be made to economize in the use of both. From Cairo this officer was then evacuated to Britain (a procedure that certainly was not necessitated by a mere bout of malaria). Some months later we heard him on the radio broadcast relayed from Britain. He was giving a very vivid account of the hardships of campaigning in the desert!
At that period our greatest hardship was the shortage of water. Supplies were very strictly rationed. Our military water bottles were filled every other day. This was all the water that we were allowed for every purpose-washing, shaving, drinking, cooking, etc. Yet the officers in their mess each evening regularly consumed more water with their whisky than was allotted to the other ranks for all purposes combined.
The result of all this was the longest retreat in the history of the British army–about seven hundred miles in all–from a place in Tripoli called El Agheila to El Alamein, about fifty miles west of Cairo. Here the British forces dug in for one final stand. If El Alamein should fall, the way would be open for the Axis powers to gain control of Egypt, to cut the Suez Canal, and to move over into Palestine. The Jewish community there would then be subjected to the same treatment that was already being meted out to the Jews in every area of Europe that had come under Nazi control.
About eighteen months previously, in a military barrack room in Britain, I had received a very dramatic and powerful revelation of Christ. I thus knew in my own experience the reality of God’s power. In the desert I had no church or minister to offer me fellowship or counsel. I was obliged to depend upon the two great basic provisions of God for every Christian: the Bible and the Holy Spirit. I early came to see that, by New Testament standards, fasting was a normal part of Christian discipline. During the whole period that I was in the desert, I regularly set aside Wednesday of each week as a special day for fasting and prayer.
During the long and demoralizing retreat to the gates of Cairo, God laid on my heart a burden of prayer, both for the British forces in the desert and for the whole situation in the Middle East. Yet I could not see how God could bless leadership that was so unworthy and inefficient. I searched in my heart for some form of prayer that I could pray with genuine faith and that would cover the needs of the situation. After a while it seemed that the Holy Spirit gave me this prayer: “Lord, give us leaders such that it will be for your glory to give us victory through them.”
I continued praying this prayer regularly every day. In due course the British government decided to relieve the commander of their forces in the desert and to replace him by another man. The man whom they chose was a general named W.H.E. “Strafer” Gott. He was flown in to Cairo to take over command, but his plane was shot down, and he was killed. Thus at this critical juncture the British forces in this major theater of the war were left without a commander. Winston Churchill, at that time Prime Minister of Britain, proceeded to act largely on his own initiative. He appointed a more-or-less unknown officer, named B.L. Montgomery, who was hastily flown out from Britain.
Montgomery was the son of an evangelical Anglican bishop. He was a man who very definitely fulfilled God’s two requirements in a leader of men. He was just and God-fearing. He was also a man of tremendous discipline. Within two months he had instilled a totally new sense of discipline into his officers, and had thus restored the confidence of the men in their leaders.
Then the main battle of El Alamein was fought. It was the first major allied victory in the entire war up to that point. The threat to Egypt, to the Suez Canal, and to Palestine was finally thrown back, and the whole course of the war changed in favor of the Allies. It is no exaggeration to say that the battle of El Alamein was the turning point of the war in North Africa.
Two or three days after the battle I found myself in the desert a few miles behind the advancing Allied forces. On the tailboard of a military truck beside me a small portable radio was relaying a news commentator’s description of the scene at Montgomery’s headquarters as he had witnessed it on the eve of the battle. He recalled how Montgomery publicly called his officers and men to prayer, saying, “Let us ask the Lord, mighty in battle , to give us the victory.” As these words came through that portable radio, God spoke very clearly to my spirit and said, “That is the answer to your prayer.”
How well this incident confirms the truth about promotion that is stated in Psalm 75.6-7. The British government chose Gott for their commander, but God set him aside and raised up Montgomery, the man of His own choosing. God did this to bring glory to His own name, and to answer a prayer which, by the Holy Spirit, He himself had first inspired me to pray. By this intervention God also preserved the Jews in Palestine from coming under the control of the Axis powers.
I believe that the prayer which God gave me at that time could well be applied to other situations, both military and political: “Lord, give us leaders such that it will be for your glory to give us victory through them.”
Psalm 75 6-7
For not from the east or from the west and not from the wilderness comes lifting up,
but it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another.
Jennifer Van Allen