I work for Christian Union, a collegiate ministry that focuses on America’s Ivy League institutions, where many of the world’s top business and government influencers are trained. Our staff consists of godly men and women, most of whom have seminary degrees and have previously ministered as pastors and missionaries.
It was quite a shock to our staff when I let them know a few years ago that God had put it on my heart for us to pray together two hours a day, up from a mere one hour per week. Ministry leaders are busy people, as you know, and I got pushback on such a big request. Many simply didn’t think we could afford to take that much time to pray. But we decided to go for it—to make prayer a high priority in our daily work.
We initially set aside 9:00–11:00 every morning to fervently seek the Lord. During the first few months, we examined the Scriptures to discover what seeking God wholeheartedly actually is, and what “normal” Christianity should look like. We listened to and learned from great saints around the world (most notably Uganda, Korea, and Fiji) and great saints from the past (such as Jonathan Edwards).
We significantly increased our own personal prayer and Bible reading as well, and for myself, I started allocating one hour in the morning and another in the evening to this purpose. When I noticed the spiritual impact on myself, that caused me to examine the Scriptures with fresh eyes. I discovered that, as a pattern in both the Old and New Testaments, prayer times scheduled multiple times per day were actually quite normal for God’s servants.
We also began fasting, sometimes for a few days and sometimes up to forty days and longer. The Lord had mercy on us, and we began to see dramatic change on campus within a few months at Princeton. We started our two-hour daily prayer in March of 2009, and by August, a new normal began to come over the ministry. During the worship times, God’s Spirit came into the room, and students spontaneously began to confess their sins loudly and desperately, while others were unable to stop praising God.
God’s Spirit now regularly falls on student gatherings during retreats and during the weekly lecture and worship meetings held on campus. During one retreat, a student called her mom at 1:30 a.m. Her mother answered the phone in a panic, given the lateness of the hour. The student, who had never experienced the presence of God before, exclaimed, “He’s here! The Holy Spirit is here!” The vast majority of these students have never seen or experienced anything like this before.
The ministry had been steadily growing every year since its inception in 2002, but everything changed at Princeton starting in the fall of 2009, and at Harvard in January of 2011. At Princeton there are now 320 students in Christian Union Bible courses, and this is the third year in a row we have had to create waiting lists. At Harvard there were 10 students in Bible courses our first year of ministry on campus; then that number jumped to 130. Here, too, we cannot keep up with the demand.
Our daily prayers have been hard work and have required many sacrifices. This commitment has meant saying no to many evening social engagements, sometimes praying all night together, missing many meals in fasting, and earnestly seeking to obey the Spirit of Christ as Lord in all matters.
But not a one of us would ever go back. The presence of God is awesome and wonderful, beckoning us to experience all the more of God. We praise God for this, and we desire for every believer to experience the power of a God-seeking lifestyle.