Prayer is a word that can conjure a variety of images, from the kneeling bar and the backs of wooden pews for the more traditional, to the arms raised no-holds-barred praying of more charismatic believers. Prayer looks different in every culture, family or group, and every person puts their own personal spin on prayer. So what is prayer exactly, and why is it so important?
Prayer is often defined as communicating to God, and so our culture has assigned the value of spoken word to prayer. Prayer is often viewed practically as “a person speaking to God.” But in reality prayer is so much more. Prayer is not only communication with God, it is also communion with God. This does not mean that prayer is only the Eucharistic expression of taking communion with bread and wine; prayer is unity with God. Prayer can definitely include the aspect of talking to God, but it is much broader than that in its full expression. Prayer can incorporate music, meditation or even just living our lives in such a way as to live aware of the presence of God. This is why the Bible commands us to pray without ceasing. It does not mean that we are to constantly talk to God, although talking to God is definitely a good thing. In fact, we would probably all benefit from talking to God more. But what would be of even greater benefit would be to broaden our perspective of prayer, quiet ourselves, and learn to listen for the voice of God.
There is an organization that believes that this sort of unending prayer is crucial to what the Lord is doing in this era of time. It is called 24/7 prayer, and according to its website, the organization is “an international, interdenominational movement of prayer, mission and justice that began with a single, student-led prayer vigil in Chichester, England in 1999 and has spread, by word-of-mouth, into 100+ nations.” 24/7 Prayer is a decentralized organization, meaning that there are a lot of other organizations which are under the Spiritual covering of 24/7 Prayer, but establish their own distinct form of the ministry. Basically the goal of 24/7 Prayer is to do just that: create missional communities of believers who are mobilized into prayer, justice and mission.
One such organization is Campus America, which is specifically geared toward developing these types of communities on college campuses. Lula McAmis is the leader of this prayer ministry on our campus, and her heart is to foster this culture of prayer on our campus. McAmis has been transformed by her time involved in this intentionally prayerful lifestyle, and she has said that “this Jesus, this beautiful Jesus, was completely different than I had ever been taught. Those weeks in the prayer room taught me what christian community was all about. First, we love Jesus well. Then we can love each other well. Who wants to be a part of a family that doesn’t love?”
We host weeks of 24/7 Prayer every semester, and McAmis says it is “the week that we invite our campus to come and be with the Lord, all day every day.” Students can sign up for hour long slots of prayer, and the goal is to have every hour of the day covered in prayer by at least one person. This is where the idea of prayer being more than words becomes of utmost importance, because it can be really difficult for the person who is not practiced in that kind of prayer to pray consistently for an hour. Prayer is a discipline, and no one is disciplined unless the discipline is practiced. “The important thing is not that you’re always thinking words to Jesus. the important thing is that you know who you’re talking to and you spend time sitting with him.” Prayer goes beyond this week of prayer, and the goal of the organization is not just to create “events,” but to create the desire for people to dive into a lifestyle of intentional prayer and communion with the Lord. The prayer team meets in the prayer room (the little room across from the student center,) M-Th nights from 8-10 on a weekly basis.
This semester’s 24/7 prayer week is going to be held the week of April 1st-7th. There will be sign ups online and in the Student Center, as well as further information spots during chapel. Finally, McAmis encourages anyone who has not been to “not be intimidated by the prayer room. We are normal people.” In a very real way prayer brings us closer to God, and closer together as a community on mission with God. We can only impact our world with the love of God if we have it living in us. So be a part of the movement; join us in prayer.