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What waking up before 7:30 am taught me about prayer

Aug 26, 2015 | Sean Cullen

A costly prayer challenge

My second year of university was the year that changed the trajectory of my life.

One day, I was on campus playing pool with three friends. We were discussing a P2C student retreat we had all just attended. We each felt challenged to put into practice what we had learned, to do something that would affect the eternal reality of students our campus.

We decided to start a prayer meeting and challenged each other (with some bravado at the start, I’ll admit) to see who could show up to more meetings that semester. We didn’t have any P2C staff on our campus at the time, but were excited about being involved with ministry. By the end of the evening, we had committed to each other that we would pray together every weekday at 7:30am for one whole semester.

This was a big deal for a group of guys who were often up all night, only going to bed around that time.

What did we actually do?

prayer meetingWith the help of an Operation World guide and a journal of our prayer requests, we began our mission.

Each morning we dove into the Psalms, and then would pray for three things:

  • For revival in our lives and among the students of our campus,
  • For our campus to become a sending ground of labourers,
  • And for the persecuted church around the world.

Word got out and our prayer meeting grew. It extended beyond just that fall semester; in fact, over the next 3 years often 25 people were regularly gathering with us to pray.

We would prayerfully walk around our campus, spreading out and praying in groups as students began pouring off the busses. As pockets of us were bowed in prayer, hundreds of bleary eyed students would rush by to grab a coffee before the start of their first class. Truth be told, at the University of Guelph that often meant they were still in their pyjamas. I still laugh when I remember this. But my heart is also moved when I remember those crowds.

praying on campus

Yes, I do remember those students

“And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.”” Matthew 9:35-38

When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them.

I think of the crowd that we would see pouring onto our campus in the early morning hours when I read this passage. They were harassed and helpless, in need of a shepherd.

Overwhelmed with all God accomplished

I recall that we often would praise God for answered prayer.

Reflecting back on those years when I spent each morning in corporate prayer, I am overwhelmed at how God changed me. It started with some competition, a little bravado, but was quickly humbling.

I believe God honoured our sacrifice (as trivial as it may seem now). I believe God honoured our desire to be part of His mission, and like the widow in Luke 18, I believe God honoured our persistence.

God answered our prayers and he did a mighty work in me and in my friends.

We saw God move in the lives of our friends and family as they discovered a relationship with Jesus.

We were encouraged to attempt bold things for the sake of the gospel on campus.

And we saw students raised up as labourers on mission.

The results will multiply

The fruit continues to multiply decades later all over the world.

When you pray for revival, watch out. Be prepared to respond in obedience.

If you pray for revival, labourers and the world… God may answer your prayers through you. People from that prayer group are serving the Lord in all kinds of ways all over the world.

God raised up labourers, just as he promised.

Praying Summer-Gathering-2015-41

3 questions we need to ask about prayer

May I ask you some questions about your prayer life? I’ll ask myself these questions too.

Does spending time with the Lord in prayer cost you anything?

I believe it should. When I was a student, getting up at 7:30am felt costly.

Now, our 5 kids are usually ready to greet me with the alarm. I’ve been trying something practical and creative recently: having my knees hit the ground in the morning before my feet. This reminds me to give those first, precious and often hectic, moments of the day to the Lord.

Do your prayers reflect God’s heart for the nations?

I often find my prayer life very “me centred”.

I know God loves me, but I also know he longs for me to love others, and so I try to remember that my prayer life should be balanced between praying for God’s mission and praying for my very real needs. I know he cares for both and wants to meet me in those places of concern.

Do you get bored asking for “Thy Kingdom Come” or are you willing to press into that daily, persistently?

It is good to consider how to persistently and creatively ask God for his work and will to be done. Find something that you do every day and turn it into a prayer meeting. Perhaps meet with Jesus as you watch the news, lifting up to Him the realities of the broken world around you.

I often ask the Lord to burden my heart with the things that burden his. I’ve also learned that it’s much more fun to pray for God’s kingdom to come when I’m praying with others. Challenge a few others to join you so that together you can pray for revival.

My challenge to you is to pray sacrificially, to pray missionally, and to pray persistently.

What would it look like if students across Canada gathered early in the mornings to seek the Lord? What if thousands of Christians cried out to God asking him to move in students’ hearts and bring revival on our campuses? How can we be a generation focused on God’s mission in our prayer?

Let’s follow the example of the persistent widow in Luke 18 to pray and not give up. And as we do, may our Lord Jesus answer in mighty ways as His people seek after Him and pray.

About the Author

Sean Cullen

Sean serves as the National Director of Power to Change – Students, leading P2C on its mission to help students discover Jesus and mobilizing the organization to focus and increase capacity for the task at hand: to be able to see the day when not one of the 2.5 millions students in Canada graduates without engaging in the life-changing message of Jesus Christ.

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