Excerpts from

I Found God in Soviet Russia

Chapter 5: The Miracle of Bread

By John Noble

Map and background Information at Introduction

Table of Contents


   "...we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. " Romans 8:26-27

THE POWER of prayer is demonstrated most strikingly in the hour of greatest need. ...On the morning of August z, when the second period of withdrawal of food began in Dresden Prison, my body was already run down from lack of proper nourishment during the previous month. The hunger pains I suffered were excruciating. My body cried out against its destruction. I would have eaten anything that was brought to me, but at each mealtime my bowl was filled only with water.

No sooner had our noon “meal” of warm water been brought that day than a terrible clatter, an uproar broke out through the prison. Maddened by the renewed starvation, the desperate prisoners were knocking on their doors, calling out for food. Many of them bitterly cursed the Russian guards, calling them every vile name possible.

The riot was spontaneous, prolonged, and more determined than any previous protests by the prisoners. The Russian guards ran up and down the corridors, armed with machine guns, threatening to shoot the rioters. The Russian captain in charge always had a dog whip hanging on his belt when he took the daily roll call. If a prisoner complained, or made a disrespectful remark, he knew how to use his whip. This day he employed it ruthlessly. Other guards armed themselves with whips and clubs. Soon the screams of prisoners being beaten almost to death added to the bedlam. Hatred begets hatred. The more the prisoners screamed in rage, the more gusto the guards took in adding to their torture.

Among the rebellious prisoners was a German communist leader who had already incurred the displeasure of his Russian masters, perhaps for showing too much independence. All his life this man had worked for the communist revolutions. Now he was already harvesting the fruits of Marxism. He cursed loudest of all against his tormentors and with most vehemence.... He had denied God for years: he had hated religion. Now, in his hour of mortal agony, he could turn only to the frustration of uncontrolled rage....

But the greatest punishment of an atheist is to be cut off from God and this punishment was one of his own making. He who had rejected God now faced death: but betrayed by the godless system he had served, he could not seek strength or solace through faith. Embittered, in complete disillusionment, he suffered an even worse punishment than the blows which eventually silenced his harrowed voice....

Each day my strength diminished. After an entire week without a morsel of food to eat, I found myself too weak to walk. I had to slide myself from my bunk to the door to receive my coffee or bowl of warm water. I knew my father would be looking through his peephole and I tried to pull myself up and to stand as straight as I could to show him that I was still on my legs. He, too, was still on his feet....

On the ninth day of the fast, both my bodily strength and my mental processes had sunk to such a level that, in one of the few lucid moments I had in my delirium, I realized death could not be far away....

Every hour or so I could hear a dreadful scraping noise along the corridor and stairs as the body of another prisoner was dragged out for burial. The bumping of the head as the guards dragged each corpse down the stairs was hardly endurable. I could only tremble in fear, and wonder how long it would be before the guards would drag out my own stiff and whitened body, or my father’s.

With my last strength, I struggled onto my knees and earnestly asked the Lord simply to close my eyes this night and release me from my mortal suffering. I said, in effect,

“Dear Lord, I give up; I can’t go on any longer. I have no way out but through Thee. Lord, close my eyes and take me to Thee, or if it be Thy will that I must go on, give me the strength to do so, and lend me Thy hand to guide me. My will is broken, Thy will be done. Amen.”

I committed my soul entirely to the hands of the Lord. Unworthy of His grace though I was, I felt prepared to die. This time, I had not prayed that my will be done but that the Lord’s will be done. I was completely submissive to that will.

With this prayer the roots of my tree of life had at last reached the rock of faith in our Blessed Lord, Jesus Christ. Clinging and fastening around that Rock, I sensed an immediate change in my life. Literally, I felt as though I was born again. I began to understand for the first time the words of Jesus to Nicodemus (John 3-3),

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” ...

I sensed an immediate change in my situation. I knew my prayer had been heard, and that, at last, I had an answer. The veil of weakness and dizziness which had dulled the perception of my senses was being lifted. From a source outside my own body, strength was coming to me. It was the most wonderful, miraculous sensation I have ever experienced. ... I was now in the hands of God, and it appeared that God did not want to close my eyes in death, as I had begged, but meant me to go on living, since my life was now to be lived in His service.

The next morning when the guard came with “coffee,” I got up from my bunk and stood at the door waiting for it to open. The experience of a new life and peace with God was so great within me that I had no more pressing concern than to share it with my father. I knew he had been fighting the same battle. That morning, he was first to receive his coffee-water and I was prepared to call out the news, despite the whipping that would surely follow.

Father’s door was opening slowly and for some moments I could not understand the sight: he had placed his tin pan at his feet and stood there, his hands folded as if in prayer and extended toward me. I understood that Our Lord takes care of these things much better than embattled mortals like myself. I did not have to call out; I did not have to be whipped; Dad knew exactly what had happened to me that night.

I stood in adoration before God when my door opened in its turn and Dad could see the peace that reigned within me as, with a smile, I received my portion. Although I derived no nourishment from the flavored water, I felt much stronger. After going downhill steadily for nine days, until the icy fingers of death seemed to be grasping my body, I was now gaining strength. On the tenth day of starvation, I was stronger than on the ninth, and on the eleventh day stronger than on the tenth!

To feel that I grew stronger, even though I was still denied food of any kind, gave me renewed confidence in the Lord. If it was the Lord’s will that I should live, and grow stronger without even any human food for my body, it meant that I no longer had to worry about bread or about anything else. It was manifest that the Lord did not intend that I should die at this time.

I had asked for death. He had given me life. Nothing could happen to me now, I knew, unless the Lord permitted it. I remembered the words of our Lord, “No harm shall come to him who putteth his trust in Me.”

“Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” Hebrews 13:15

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