ONE OF THE most famous pictures of the twentieth century was that of the “Unknown Rebel”—often referred to as “Tank Man”—who stood defiantly in front of a column of Chinese Type 59 tanks the day after the brutal clearing of student protesters from Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. You have probably seen the picture; if not, simply searching for “Tank Man” on the Internet will bring up several versions of it, and even some video. According to official channels, no one ever found out who this man was or what ever happened to him. For many the picture became a symbol of the power of nonviolent protest. One ordinary man, carrying what looked to be his groceries, standing resolutely in front of a column of tanks, any one of which could easily roll over him, but because of the humanity of the lead tank driver, rather than rolling over him, the entire column stood at a standstill. When the man cut off the attempts of the tanks to drive around him, he moved back to stand before the lead tank again, and the column was forced again to a halt. It was as if the courage of that one man was able to stop the entire Chinese Army. Had only this been the case the day before—if only someone had been able to stand between the army and stop them on that day—then the thousands of causalities that resulted from that crackdown would have been spared.
The cornerstone scripture on intercession paints a very similar picture. I like how The Message paraphrases it:
Extortion is rife, robbery is epidemic, the poor and needy are abused, outsiders are kicked around at will, with no access to justice. I looked for someone to stand up for me against all this, to repair the defenses of the city, to take a stand for me and stand in the gap to protect this land so I wouldn’t have to destroy it. I couldn’t find anyone. Not one.
—EZEKIEL 22:29–30, THE MESSAGE
Sounds a lot like the age we live in, doesn’t it? If you were to look back through history, corruption like this only changed with times of great societal awakening. Israel saw it under praying kings like David, Hezekiah, and Josiah. The Great Awakening of the 1700s was birthed in the 24/7 prayer of the Moravians at Herrnhut and in the methodical devotion of John and Charles Wesley and George Whitefield. Typical of his attitude about prayer, John Wesley once said, “I pray two hours every morning. That is if I don’t have a lot to do. If I have a lot to do that day, then I pray three hours.”
-Till Heaven Invades the Earth