When I was in high school, I took up running. It was mostly in rebellion to the volleyball coach, as I quit the team my senior year and said that I was going to run cross country, but in this act with less than noble intentions, I learned a valuable lesson. I learned what it means to have a daily commitment to a formative practice in my life. While running is of some value, spiritual training has value for this age and the age to come.
Prayer is one of those formative practices. But it is often something that we take for granted as a Christian practice. It is just something that we “do.” We learn prayers when we’re young, we stand in a circle holding hands and offer our thanks or share a request, and we add prayers to the prayer chain. But I, for one, have felt a sense of inadequacy in my prayers from time to time. When I was in seminary, I was a part of a prayer group that started each week with the questions, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Since that time 7 years ago, I have learned a few things about prayer. I have learned many things about prayer since that time, but want to briefly identify three.
- I have learned to appreciate the prayers of others.
- I have found consolation in the rhythm of prayer at different times throughout the day.
- I have enjoyed a sense of praying (even if not physically) with others the same prayer.
I am excited to now be a part of a prayer initiative that unites all three of these particular lessons.
I’ve written about this project before, but as we approach the launch of 40 Days of Prayer for Campus Ministry, I want to once again invite people to participate in sustaining the collegiate ministries in the United Methodist Church in prayer during the first 6 weeks of the fall semester. The prayers are written by pastors, campus ministers, administrators, professors, general board officials, and even a couple of bishops. They are honest and passionate pleas to God on behalf of the 17 million students who will head to college in just a couple of weeks. Since I’m helping to compile the prayers, I’ve had a sneak peek at them and am thrilled at the way that they show a glimpse into God’s heart for college students (and the church, too, by the way).
The prayers are going to be posted daily, starting August 17, at www.CollegeUnion.org/prayer and will last until September 25. After August 10, we’ll have the entire prayer book available for download at the same website and we would like to encourage people to share the prayers with their congregation, board of directors, district superintendent, students, or local pastors. Those lessons that I learned in running—daily, ongoing, sacrificing actions—are applicable to prayer. I do hope that you’ll join me in prayer.