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Creating an Online Prayer Community

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I work for a college ministry at a private school that I used to attend. Our core group of students is not large but the student body population is largely non-religious. A lot of our efforts go towards showing non-Christians that we are not all of the negative stereotypes they have in their heads about Christians. This translates into outreach that is friendly for believers and non-believers alike.

One of the ways we have found to connect to students is through an annual Prayer Tent that we set up in the middle of one of the busy areas of campus. For 48 hours, people will be in the tent praying. Inside the tent we have “stations” where our student leaders and staff create various guided prayers, questions, applications, and interactive activities for students to follow. There is also always a “host” or two who sit at a table at the front, available for anyone passing or stopping by to pray with. Each time we have done it, we have had great conversations with students of all beliefs, many of whom we never would have met otherwise.

The Prayer Tent is also a place for the students in our ministry to deepen their faith and their relationships with each other. Imagine sitting in a tent from 3am to 4am with a fellow believer, surrounded by words of scripture and prayer. The kinds of conversations that come out of these unique moments are God-given. It also gives our students the opportunity to potentially share their faith with another student and to invite their friends and classmates to come and see.

This year, things had to be different.

For obvious reasons, the prayer tent could not happen the way it was supposed to. Campus was shut down and students were sent home. However, as a staff, we decided not to give up on the notion that our campus needed 48 straight hours of prayer. Our students, especially in this strange, new time, needed prayer. So, we had to be innovative. We began creating a Virtual Prayer Tent linked to our website. Here were some of the elements we wanted to be a part of the virtual prayer experience:

Prayer Stations

We were not giving up on having interactive prayer stations as the centerpiece of the virtual prayer tent. We found a way to do this using the presentation format of Prezi, a free online tool that allows a viewer with an internet connection to navigate through a presentation at their own pace and flow. We asked our student leaders in pairs to create a Prezi about different fruits of the spirit. Those links are now on our webpage and can be accessed by anyone who comes across them in a form of guided prayer. As always, they were created with believers and non-believers in mind.

Prayer Requests

Another important aspect of the prayer tent was always the opportunity for people to share their prayer requests. We set up a Google form on the website allowing people to send in prayer requests. They could do so anonymously or not and were able to leave contact information if they wanted someone to reach out to them about their prayer request. During the 48 hours, the feature was not used quite as much as we had hoped, but it still served the purpose: we were an open door for anyone who saw the page.

Prayer Hosts

Those prayer requests in the past were always taken by the people sitting at the prayer tent. We wanted to continue to allow our students the opportunity to pray over their classmates concerns as well as allow for Kingdom unity on campus across the various ministries. We invited all of the other ministries to join us in being hosts for the tent. We sent out a sign-up sheet so that hour by hour there were people praying. Those people who signed up were also given access to a Google spreadsheet where prayer requests would be gathered from the Google form on the website. Tent hosts would keep track of the prayer requests as they came in and praying for them during their allotted hours.

What were some of the benefits to going online?

Our reach grew. The students on campus were now not the only ones who could access our prayer stations and send in prayer requests. It also opened the door to have more people involved in hosting the tent.

During this time of shelter-in-place for many and social distancing, people‘s circles are changing. For many reasons, it is often hardest to share the gospel with those closest to you because they see all of your mistakes and sins. But during this strange season, those are the people we are with constantly. With the institution of something like the virtual prayer tent, it gives people another way to share the gospel with their families at home, and not just for 48 hours. It is safe and it is simple. 

Most everyone wants to be a more loving person, with joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. God’s word speaks for itself. Plus, having someone who is willing to hear your needs and call upon their god for you is something most people do not oppose. And we know that ministry has had to evolve constantly with time. It is flexible and adaptable. But its message is timeless and unchanging: we worship a good God who saves and hears our prayers. So let us pray.

 

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About Author

Suzanne Yost
Suzanne Yost

Suzanne is a recent college graduate who serves as a Campus Missionary Intern with Baptist Student Ministry. She is involved in building relationships with students, event planning, and social media and marketing management. She also enjoys all types of writing from professional to creative, online and in print.

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