When LSA junior Julia Rodgers first arrived on campus her freshman year, her outlook was dim. Coping with an eating disorder and bouts of depression, Rodgers wasn’t sure how she was going to make it through the semester. Her friends urged her to participate in 40 Days of Prayer, and although she was resistant at first, she ultimately relented.
For Rodgers, the decision to participate in the event and become a Christian was life changing.
“I experienced a freedom in knowing that I am loved not for what I do or don’t do, but for who I am,” she said. “I experience more grace in my failures rather than constant shame.”
Tonight at 10 p.m. Christian groups from across campus will kick off 40 Days of Prayer, the same event Rodgers attended two years ago, at the University Lutheran Chapel on Washtenaw Avenue.
Following the celebration, which will feature performances from local Christian bands, there will be a prayer room available all day and night for the next 40 days for anyone to come in and pray.
LSA junior Katie Fox, one of the event’s central organizers, said every week will feature a new theme to help guide participants’ prayers.
“There will be a theme every week for people to pray for. Themes include spiritual warfare, God’s love and prayer as a lifestyle,” she said.
Engineering senior Craig Spencer, another one of the event’s organizers, said this year’s event will unite a record number of campus Christian groups.
“We have 20 different groups officially sponsoring and four other groups participating in the event,” he said. “It’s an unprecedented gathering of Christians on campus. I don’t know of anything like it past or present that goes on like this. To have more than 20 groups represented in one location is very empowering.”
Spencer said University alumni Jeff Chin and Phil Michael came up with the idea for 40 Days of Prayer in 2007 when they were still students.
“Their whole idea was, one, to see people praying and two, to see Christians united on campus,” Spencer said. “It started with two guys who had a plan, who had a vision and ran with it.”
Business sophomore Zachary White, another event organizer, said the main goal of the prayer marathon is to unite campus Christian groups and students through prayer.
“Ultimately, our mission is for people’s lives to be changed through Christ,” he said. “We hope that Christians can grow closer in their relationship with God through prayer and that non-Christians can not only see but also experience the difference in their life with having a relationship with Jesus Christ based in prayer.”
Spencer said he hopes that the event will help students see prayer in a new light.
“Many believe that prayer can be a very boring thing, that it’s just a commitment, something that you have to do to be a Christian,” Spencer said. “But prayer can also be very exciting, very high energy, that allows for many miraculous things to happen. It’s intriguing and a really amazing part of the Christian walk.”
Spencer said that while some might expect a 40-day prayer event to occur during Lent — the forty day period before Easter which is often observed with prayer and fasting — the beginning of the semester is the perfect time for an event like this on campus.
“Going from January to February allows us to get 40 days where people aren’t quite as busy with finals and papers and also allows us to have 40 straight days without any major breaks,” Spencer said.
Fox said using the prayer room was a life-altering experience for her.
“The prayer room holds a special place in my heart because my freshman year it was the first place I ever truly experienced God,“ Fox said. “We want to see the lives of every person who walks into the prayer room changed as our lives have been changed by the room. That is why we continue to keep the prayer room alive.”
Fox added that she has heard others talk about the room’s transformative power.
“I have seen the changes that the prayer room creates in people’s lives,” Fox said. “While most of the people that come to the prayer room are believers, their lives are often changed throughout the 40 days as their relationship with God is deepened.”