The following is an excerpt from my book Campus Renewal – A Practical Plan to Unite Campus Ministries in Prayer and Evangelism.
Trent Sheppard is part of a collegiate prayer movement called Campus America. Campus America is an initiative of 24/7 Prayer International (UK) that helps students create dynamic prayer rooms on campus that last anywhere from 12 hours to 40 days.
It’s obvious to Trent, from what he has written below, that God is calling students to pray in an extraordinary way. The following stories of student prayer are taken from his book, God on Campus: Sacred Causes & Global Effects.
Storys of Student Prayer Across Campus America
“We pray for the big things…we pray for the small things. It’s just a bunch of people hungry for God.” Slate Stout, a student at Arizona State University, in USA Today.
Campus America — which is an abbreviated way of saying: every college and university campus in the United States — is at a moment of profound potential. Why? Because people are praying. People are engaging with God again. The soul of our universities is beginning to stir.
Students and professors, young and old, the powerful and the poor: each in their own way are seeking for something more solid than the shaky commitment of the stock market, something more lasting than the wonderful but fragile ideals of democracy, something immeasurably more sacred than a “Christian” nation.
Arizona State University (ASU) is one of the biggest campuses in the country. More than fifty-one thousand students are enrolled at ASU. In the autumn of 2007, two hundred students at Arizona State determined to cover their campus in prayer for twenty-one days.
“All through the day and night,” reported an article in USA Today that covered the event, “they pray…their stillness and quiet in marked contrast to the nearly constant rush of…the campus.”
University of Michigan
Three months after the event at ASU, The Michigan Daily covered a similar story at the University of Michigan (UM). Students at UM were involved in a project on campus called “40 Days of Prayer.” The report in the Daily particularly highlighted the testimony of a sophomore, “who…passionately spoke to a captivated crowd about how the 40 Days of Prayer helped her overcome an eating disorder.”
Multiple groups on campus, including Phi Alpha Kappa, Campus Crusade, World Reach International and New Life Church, sponsored the 2008 event. (One year later, when the event took place again, twenty campus groups were part of the prayer initiative.)
Just one month after the 40 Days of Prayer launched at UM in 2008, the Columbus Dispatch reported an incredible story that took place at Ohio University. “When an…employee decided to end his life Friday,” the article explains, “students turned to the power of prayer and the pen to save him. It worked.”
According to the Dispatch, a group of praying students asked God to give them words of encouragement for a suicidal man who was preparing to jump from the ledge of a building on campus. A crisis specialist read the words of encouragement to the distraught man during a four-hour suicide intervention that ultimately saved his life.
The following are excerpts from what the Dispatch called the “Samaritans’ Letters”: “I know sometimes it is easy to feel alone in the world, but it is important to remember that there are people who care. Right now there are a lot of people praying for you….You are not alone, and you are loved. I don’t know you or what is on your mind….But I do know the pain and brokenness that comes from living in this world. I have suffered from depression for two years, and I know what it feels like to be hopeless at times. But I know there is more. There is beauty. You’ll see it if you look.”
When people pray on campus, things begin to change. At the sprawling campus of Arizona State, this change looked like stillness in the midst of the mad hustle and bustle of fifty-one thousand students. At the University of Michigan it looked like a young woman set free from an eating disorder. At Ohio University it looked like a suicidal employee listening to the words of life when he was on the very edge of death. The power of prayer changes things.
At McDaniel College in Maryland this looked like thirteen students deciding to follow Jesus. At Haskell Indian Nations University in Kansas it looked like a young Caucasian woman and an older Native American intercessor weeping together over the sins of history. At Oklahoma State University it looked like a bunch of guys transforming a nineteen-bedroom frat house into a counterculture of Christ-centered community and 24-7 prayer called The Jesus House.
The power of prayer changes things. At Morgan State University, a historically African American institution, this looked like a prayer tent in the center of campus with young black students on their knees in the middle of a late night storm. At Gardner-Webb University in North Carolina it looked like “a prayer room covered in art and scriptures, a wailing wall with…heart cries to the most holy God, a place where students could go spend time with their Creator.”
Those that visited the room encountered a wall of prayers and petitions. Real, raw prayers asking God for deliverance from sexual addictions, for suicidal thoughts, healing and release from illness, the salvation of lost friends. They found books full of prayers… They were able to see maps covered with pictures and writing and prayers for different parts of the world. Markers and colored pencils were scattered on the floor from where people had written verses on the wall.
From where people had written, “Come, Lord Jesus, Come!” Students are beginning to realize that the power of prayer changes things. They are also beginning to understand that the movement of prayer currently building across the campuses of America must be worked out in practical faith — a faith that makes sense to students and professors, parents and teachers, plumbers and scientists, architects and flight attendants — or else the movement will die as quickly as it comes.
Justin Christopher is the director of Campus Renewal Ministries at the University of Texas and author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission.He gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the missional community movement at the University of Texas.