Student group devotes time to praying for the community and holding prayer events
News | Laura Jahnke for The Clarion
They introduce Vespers each Sunday night. They offer to take out our trash. They lead an annual 24 hours of prayer event. Students all around campus have seen Pray First in action, but do they actually know about the behind-the-scenes work of this prayer group?
“Pray First's role on campus is to holistically unify the body of Bethel through prayer and service,” said junior Mary Richmond. Pray First began five years ago by a group of students who desired to pray for Bethel’s community. Since then, Pray First has become a notable presence at Bethel.
“I got the name while a student was praying for me,” said Donna Johnson, Campus Pastor and leader of Pray First. “The name itself tells us what we’re supposed to do. We often go to others and God says, ‘Hello? Come to me, all who are weary and I will give you rest.’ Pray first.”
The group is comprised of four teams who weekly pray for dorms, Staff/Faculty and BSA. They attend a Thursday meeting where students are encouraged to share how God has been moving in their hearts. Each Sunday night, one of these teams is available during Vespers for prayer.
“I want Bethel students to know that we are here to serve them and not to be afraid to ask for prayer--we don't bite,” said Richmond. Members weekly invite students to join them in the hallway during Vespers to pray together, and they desire to encourage an environment of prayer.
Pray First recently began a Prayer Challenge based on Acts 4. In Acts 4, Peter and John were commanded not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. After this confrontation, the two men lifted their voices to God. Acts 4:31 states, “And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.”
“What struck me about that was that when they were in unity and coming together, not complaining, there was a manifestation of God’s presence that happened in that room,” said Pastor Johnson. “And they prayed for boldness and they prayed for courage.”
The Prayer Challenge is running through the final seven weeks of the semester. It is a chance for students to come together on Monday nights to pray for boldness, courage, and peace in the Bethel community.
“The last couple weeks of school can be the most challenging... We’ve got people being laid off... students who are compromising in their life styles... students with the issue of grades... the stress about the summer, getting a job, graduates asking what am I doing with my life?” said Pastor Johnson. “All of these things come up. And I said what would be like if as a community, we just came together to pray for our peers and to pray for Bethel?”
This past Monday was the midway point through this Prayer Challenge. In order to celebrate, Pray First created Celebr8, which consisted of 8 hours of praise and worship in the Eastland Room.
“Celebr8 was a great time to reflect on my own life as well as lift up Bethel and the community in prayer,” said junior, Jenny Wriedt. The night was full of continuous prayer, and was impactful for those who attended. Students freely flowed in and out, and the largest group attended for the final hour
“The coolest part of the night for me was when we had a group prayer and praise time for the last hour of the time,” said Wriedt, “It was really beautiful to see peers praying for each other.”
The Prayer Challenge meets on Monday nights from 10-10:30 PM in various locations. The challenge will continue through May 12, and Pray First is inviting all students to join in this time of connecting with God.
“I want Bethel to know that Pray First is here and we have a passion for prayer and a passion for people,” said Wriedt. Pray First hopes to encourage others to be bold in prayer and to seek first the Kingdom of God, to pray first.