One of the top influences on a student coming to faith today is their experience of the power of prayer.*
As Christians, we believe prayer is powerful and actually makes a difference. Turns out this is not just theory, but is experienced as true in practice, and contributes powerfully to how students are coming to faith. People exploring whether God is real and Jesus can be known and knows them, often want to try praying. After all, if this is all real, surely something will happen, change or be effected by talking with God?
And the reality is, God is faithful to answer. He is not far off. He draws close as we turn our attention to him, and as we pray for people who maybe have never spoken to him before, or as they themselves try praying for the first time, remarkable things happen.
This is what some of the students said:
“It was like someone was putting a hand on my shoulder and pulling me back from the pit I was more than ready to throw myself into.”
“God if you’re real, I need you to take this sadness away. I need to feel some joy…/ I remember like a weight being lifted off my shoulders…/ I remember hearing what I now know as God’s voice, saying, “you are loved, and you can have this joy, this joy is yours.”
“When I’m praying I get emotional and I can’t explain it… I think it shows I’m not praying to myself”
“I realised there was a personal connection there, a God I could talk to.”
How much space are we giving for the Holy Spirit to speak and for the presence of God to have the airtime, not us?
How much are we putting in the hands of every student the power to connect with God for themselves, no mediator necessary?
How much are you putting God in the position of God and actually praying for things that can’t happen if he isn’t real and doesn’t move?
Whether it was in miraculous healing, provision of rent so they didn't get kicked out, a sense of peace in the middle of despair, or just a quiet but overwhelming realisation that they are not alone and are deeply loved, the power of prayer trumps any talk or clever arguments when it comes to students meeting God for real for themselves.
Who might you offer to pray for and with this week, who you'd normally just say wise words to but not make space for the Holy Spirit to also speak in silence and in encounter? What do your mates need from God and do you trust God enough to actually pray for it with them and put the responsibility on Jesus to do something?
These are challenging questions for me too... but I am also deeply relieved to discover how important prayer is, and how powerfully God uses it to meet students, none of my own strength or answers necessary.
*These statements are taken from research completed for my Masters degree in which I explored commonalities of students coming to faith in Jesus in England today. I gathered data from a spread of institutions, geographical locations, church expressions and interviewed an equal number of male and female students, with some diversity in background and ethnicity as well. Although my findings have limitations and my scope of data had to be small, I believe what I have discovered is still very useful for local churches seeking to share Jesus with students and so this blog series explores the top 12 commonalities discovered. Enjoy!