An Interdenominational Prayer Movement
The Day of Prayer for colleges was warmly embraced and promoted by almost every major university and denomination in America. This can be partially attributed to the fact that the Day of Prayer was originally an extension of the transatlantic Concert of Prayer movement. Throughout the second half of 18th century the Concerts of Prayer had established a reputation in Britain and America for interdenominational unity, mutual respect and genuine cooperation. These values helped to foster a welcoming atmosphere where differing evangelical leaders and their congregations could come together and pray about their common needs and concerns. It was this cross-denominational unity in prayer that gave America’s colleges a working model for their own prayer movement. Therefore, they incorporated these same practices into the structure of the Day of Prayer for colleges, and thereby won the trust and respect of the nations leading churches and universities.
A Defined & Specific Focus in Corporate Prayer
United and effective prayer always requires some defined goals and specific objectives. America’s first student prayer movement affirmed this truth, and without apology called on their peers to pray on a specific day for a specific Kingdom purpose. Their generation’s greatest spiritual needs defined where and how they should focus their greatest faith in prayer. Without this kind of specific and focused prayer we will never see our hopes and dreams for this generation realized. The Kingdom focus of the original Concert of Prayer for Colleges, and that of the transatlantic Concert of Prayer movement that preceded it, had a distinct two part emphasis. They specifically prayed for both the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon their churches, communities and colleges, and the spread of the Gospel in all its purity and power throughout the world. They clearly understood that one depended upon the other, that they were divinely interconnected and therefore they specifically prayed for both. They considered the evangelization of the world as their God given duty and destiny, and an awakened and revived Church as the surest way to achieve it.
A Variety of Corporate Prayer Styles
As already mentioned, the strength of the Day of Prayer for colleges was found in its unity and agreement. Thousands of believers from every evangelical denomination and from nearly every state and campus in America willingly agreed to come together and pray about the same things at the very same time. Yet, when you examine the records of how the Day of Prayer for colleges was applied by all these different campuses, you discover that they often prayed in a variety of different ways. Some colleges observed the day of prayer by holding one simple prayer meeting while other colleges spent several days in fervent prayer and fasting. Some groups prayed long and loud while others bowed and prayed quietly. Though no one group or denomination claimed ownership over the Day of Prayer, this freedom of expression instilled within each individual prayer group a healthy sense of personal responsibility and vision for the larger prayer movement. This diversity and freedom of expression helped the prayer movement glean the greatest amount of participation possible on the greatest number of campuses.
Uniting the Generations in Corporate Prayer
Another key element of the original Day of Prayer for colleges was it’s cross-generational vision. It wasn’t merely confined to college students on college campuses. During the 19th century almost every church and denomination felt some responsibility for the colleges in America. Therefore, pastors and church leaders preached about the spiritual needs of students and urged their congregations to pray for America’s universities. Consequently, the prayer burden for college students was not carried by just a few college ministers or campus ministries. No, the fathers and mothers and the whole Christian community participated in the Day of Prayer for colleges. This Day of Prayer was not observed only on the campus, but in the churches and homes of everyone who cared about the next generation. Our history teaches us that both the older and younger generation alike must work together in united prayer for the future of our nation and world.
The Spirit of Grace & Supplication
It was no accident that the first campus prayer movement in America succeeded. Its cross-denominational partnership, unified focus and spiritual diversity, all helped to make the movement a powerful channel of revival and awakening. The American Church during this time was far from perfect. However, the combined effect of all these graces made it much more welcoming and attractive to those who wanted to learn how to pray together. Those who seek to advance the Kingdom of God sometimes overlook these qualities. Yet, it was these same gestures of respect and spiritual hospitality that made it possible for a greater variety of believers to work together in persistent prayer. A day was fixed and established, so the young and old, the poor and rich from every corner and campus in America could come together and pray for Christ to come in power upon America’s campuses. The wisdom of humility, honor and mutual respect made the prayer movement possible. It seems that as long as the American churches tried to uphold and honor these spiritual values, they were enabled to keep their appointment with God to pray for our colleges.