Could the words, “college student” and “prayer time” go in the same sentence? Part 2
Jeremiah 33:3 “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.”
There are a million ways to host prayer meetings, but the key is for each gathering to be passionate and purposeful. I have led a ton of bad prayer times in my day and my staff and I have learned what works and what doesn’t.
In part 1, I debunk the lie that “college students don’t want to get up early and pray.” Here, I give my best shot at the painfully obvious things that make a prayer time succeed or fail.
Several weeks into the semester, we share vision for seeing another move of God on our campuses. And then…we invite the entire ministry to a coffee shop on Baylor’s campus at 6:30am for EMP: early morning prayer!
At 6am that morning we text everyone we know and the wake up calls begin. At 6:20am, we make sure the music is loud and the coffee is bold. (As the year goes on, some students will come straight from all night study sessions so caffeine is a must!) We script a brief, passionate vision statement to welcome and excite people about what we are going to do over the next hour. We launch into two to three uptempo worship songs to shake people awake. This sets the tone for the rest of the time so as the leader, you have to collaborate with the worship leader. Do not let them sing some Kumbayah song that puts everybody to sleep or some new song they love but nobody else knows the words to.
While the music continues to play instrumentally, we jump up and grab their attention. Immediately. Transitions are pivotal. Don’t leave lag time in between prayer points or worship songs. If you do, people will drift. In that space, we’ll sometimes have someone share a testimony or a wild faith story of legendary intercessor like Hudson Taylor or George Mueller. People start clapping and yelling because their faith is stirred. Now they’re ready to bang on the door of Heaven!
We have someone give vision and Scriptural backing for what we are going to pray about: it could be for family members or for God to give us a heart for the lost or stop human trafficking.
Only rule: it must be clear and linear not some vague message that makes everybody stare at each other and wonder what the heck they are supposed to pray for.
We then ask people to gather into what we call FIGHT GROUPS. These are groups that are no larger than three people and have one purpose: to spiritually fight on behalf of others!
We use the word FIGHT to attract men because they sometimes think church prayer is merely for girls. We pray in threes, so that everyone gets a chance to pray out loud. We remind people that if they are new to EMP, they don’t have to pray out loud, but this is a safe place to learn how to pray.
After each prayer point, someone closes it out in prayer onstage. The more passionate students we can get on the “stage” praying—especially guys—the better. Again, I have ladies praying and leading constantly, but we are unapologetically intentional about focusing on men and racial diversity when planning who is upfront leading prayer.
We usually do two to three prayer points, then go back into worship to change it up. Typically, I’ve prepared the worship leader on how the prayer point is going to finish so he or she can sing an appropriate song that builds momentum. So, if we just prayed for God to help us surrender fully to his plans for the future, then we would go into Hillsong’s “Stand” and blow the roof off.
Sometimes, students sense God is speaking something specific we should pray about or a Bible verse that needs to be read, and we follow the Holy Spirit’s lead in those times. But we stay away from praying for everybody’s Aunt Patty who’s having a hard week.
We always finish with one prayer that will get our students fired up (i.e. another move of God on our campus). We want them telling their friends that EMP day is the best day of their week. Then we commend them for being the 1% of college students on the planet who are up and seeking God at that crazy hour!
We send them on their way at 7:30am (on the dot!) so they can get to class. We don’t want them to feel like we’re the church that doesn’t honor their other priorities.
Throughout the years, we have seen God answer thousands of prayers for sure. But more than anything we have seen God mold college students into men and women of prayer who see it as normal to get up early and seek the face of God. And that’s a legacy that never dies.