Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Campus ministries at Bethel College recently sponsored a 24 Hour Prayer vigil, inviting members of the college community to sign up to pray for blocks of time beginning 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, and ending 6:00 p.m. on Sunday. The prayer vigil took place at the Agape Center in the Richert House, just across the street from BCMC.
In advance of 24 Hour Prayer, student chaplain Ben Kreider offered some reflections about prayer in a chapel service. “By intentionally praying around the clock as a community for a full day we hope to discover the ways in which we can pray ceaselessly at all times,” he said. “When the word prayer is mentioned, a lot of thoughts or feelings may surface. We may feel awkward or uncomfortable with prayer. We may feel guilty about how little we pray. We may not know what prayer is. We may experience prayer as stagnant, as simply a conversation in our head. I don’t have a nice definition of prayer all worked out but some possibilities of what it can be. Prayer can be taking off our shoes and declaring the ground under our feet to be holy. Prayer can be crying in pain and lament to God. Prayer can be sitting in silence and waiting for God. Prayer can be an explosion of holy creativity manifest in art and song. Prayer can be the words of familiar Psalms and hymns when we have no words of our own. Prayer can be free-form, spontaneous, and spirit-filled. Prayer can be a simple posture of gratitude and hope.” Ben concluded with his hopes for the 24 Hour Prayer vigil: “I hope that we come to know prayer as something life-giving, a way to connect with our Creator. I hope that prayer can begin where we honestly are, with all our worries and foibles and questions, and find its end in the peace and the love of God who is always listening and present.”
I participated in 24 Hour Prayer early Sunday morning. Student chaplains had set up different forms of prayer for participants to engage in: Lighting candles along with prayer requests written by students at the chapel service earlier in the week, scripture, written prayer guides, music, devotional images to meditate on in silence, and visual art.
I was grateful for this time and space in which to slow down, become mindful of God, and to join the flow of prayer and the community of pray-ers who came and went during that 24 hours. As I arrived for my hour of prayer and entered the Agape Center, I noticed that the person who I was replacing had left their shoes by the door: A sign of holy ground. I too removed my shoes, just as Moses had removed his sandals before the presence of God in the burning bush. Any place is holy ground when we recognize that God is there, and open ourselves to be present to God.
I began my prayers that morning by reading from the classic devotional book, A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie, with prayers for morning and evening of each day of the month. Here is a portion of the morning prayer for the 9th day of the month, which wonderfully expresses both the mystery and mandate of prayer:
Here I am, O God, of little power and of mean estate, yet lifting up heart and voice to Thee before whom all created things are as dust and a vapour. Thou art hidden behind the curtain of sense, incomprehensible in Thy greatness, mysterious in Thine almighty power; yet here I speak with Thee familiarly as child to parent, as friend to friend. If I could not thus speak to Thee, then were I indeed with out hope in the world… Dear Father, take this day’s life into Thine own keeping. Control all my thoughts and feelings. Direct all my energies. Instruct my mind. Sustain my will. Take my hands and make them skilful to serve Thee. Take my feet and make them swift to do Thy bidding. Take my eyes and keep them fixed upon Thine everlasting beauty. Take my mouth and make it eloquent in testimony to Thy love. Make this day a day of obedience, a day of spiritual joy and peace. Make this day’s work a little part of the work of the Kingdom of my Lord Christ, in whose name these my prayers are said. Amen.
May it be so – on this day, tomorrow, and every 24 hours…
– Heidi Regier Kreider
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