Usually, hundreds of people crammed into a fraternity on a Saturday night means a party.
When the clock struck midnight on Saturday at Christian fraternity Phi Alpha Kappa, though, more than 100 students had gathered to pray. Packed onto sofas, huddled on the floor and leaning against the walls, students sang joyfully and closed their eyes in meditation as they kicked off the 40 Days of Prayer, an event sponsored by 10 campus Christian groups.
Students can sign up for as short as half an hour or as much as an entire night of prayer time in a designated room in the Phi Alpha Kappa house. They can sign up for as little as a half hour, or as much as an entire night. Organizers aim to have someone praying at all times over the next 40 days.
“In this school it is easy to get lost as a Christian,” said LSA senior Ashley Hajski. “This event can help us be together under our God.”
Philip Michael, a junior in the School of Music, Theatre and Dance, planned the event with LSA junior Jeffrey Chin. Michael said he sees 40 Days of Prayer as an opportunity for religious people from different backgrounds to come together.
“Our major goal is to see a revival on campus as far as Christian enthusiasm or people following Christ to get more involved in their spiritual life,” Michael said. “Our event is open to all Christian denominations and non-Christians alike.”
World Reach, an international Christian missionary group, has helped organize similar events at campuses across the country, helped set up a website called PrayUM.org, where students can sign up for prayer times. The organization also gave campus organizers maize and blue wristbands with the phrase “Pray UM.”
Throughout Saturday night, students poured into the house to join the prayer session and look at the designated prayer room, which was no bigger than a standard dorm room.
The room’s walls were bare except for sheets of white and yellow butcher paper on which participants can write their prayers.
At the front of the room, a wooden cross hung over a bowl of water. Students can write their sins on their hands in red marker and wash them away in the bowl.
A world map was taped to one wall. Underneath it were sheets of star stickers for students to mark the areas they’ve prayed for.
“It’s when we pray that God moves and I believe things on this campus will change with our prayer,” LSA junior Michelle Holliday said.
Michael said he hopes the event will send a different message than the one espoused this fall on the Diag by radical Christian preachers who made headlines by screaming about their hatred for gay people and others.
“Our foundation is that God loves us and cares for us, not that he is going to condemn us, but that he sent his son for us,” Michael said. “Even though we would be classified in the same genre as the Diag preachers, our approach is a loving one. We seek unification -not separation.”