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“A Sustained Heart Cry”

A group of students have been meeting three times a week all semester to pray in community.

By Katie Johnson '19, content specialist

December 06, 2019 | 10:30 a.m.

Students praying across stage

Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, a group of students meet in Benson Great Hall to pray together in community.

Heads bent, hands folded, mouths forming holy whispers and booming shouts to the Almighty. It’s 7 a.m., and 40 students have come together in Benson Great Hall to pray. 

The scene has become a common occurrence. Since the first week of the 2019-20 school year, a growing group of Bethel students has gathered three times a week to pray for the community. It started with a conversation over coffee—Nicole Miller ’21, a communication studies major, told business marketing major Andrew Sheahan ’21 that she had been waking up at 7 a.m. on Fridays to spend time in prayer. On Thursday night, Sheahan sent a text to seven other people and invited them to meet on the lawn outside the Community Life Center the next morning to pray as one.

Miller and her roommate brought Dunn Brothers coffee. As they pulled into the parking lot, they were stunned to find dozens of people scattered across the grass, ready to pray and see the Lord move. “We pulled in and both [my roommate] and I started tearing up, because this was something we’d been praying for,” Miller says. “We were literally walking in an answered prayer. It was kind of a surreal moment.”

Before long, Sheahan’s original group message grew into Facebook and Instagram pages for anyone interested in participating. Over the course of three months, the group has moved from grass and sunshine to the warmth of Benson Great Hall during dark winter mornings, forming new friendships and a tight-knit community. “It’s the craziest thing,” says Peyton Gallagher ’21, “I didn’t hang out with any of them last year, and now I have these guys who worship with me because they love the Lord in the same way. That community has created such a safe place to unashamedly chase after Jesus and do it together.”

Associate Vice President of Christian Formation and Church Relations Laurel Bunker says she has been honored to witness this spiritual movement across campus. In her 12 years at Bethel, she hasn’t seen anything quite like it. It’s not a feeling, she says, but a transformation—a “sustained heart cry.”

And that heart cry can take different forms. While connecting with Jesus in such a vulnerable way can be an emotionally charged experience for some, the meetings are about so much more. Ben Tiskevics ’21 would be the first person to admit that he doesn’t crawl out of bed early three times a week because it feels good, but rather, it’s a spiritual discipline he’s practicing. “And sometimes, and I’ll be dead honest with you, people have these crazy experiences where they feel the Holy Spirit all the time—and, I’m just like, that ain’t me,” Tiskevics says, laughing. He accepts that he can come to pray without being consumed by emotion, that the Holy Spirit will still show up even though sometimes it takes work. 

Sheahan’s heart cry looks different than Tiskevics’—no better, no worse—for he has a different story. He knows what it’s like to struggle with unhealthy choices. For years, he wasn’t sure what following Jesus actually looked like—until one day at church, when he looked up and was surprised to see the guest speaker beckoning him to the front of the sanctuary. Sheahan realized his hand was raised almost of its own accord, and he decided to give his life to Jesus. It was a commitment that would shape the rest of his life.

“God is using [my story] for so much good, even though I chose a different route than He may have intended,” Sheahan says. He’s grateful to have discovered a supportive community among some hometown friends and fellow students—especially those in the prayer group.

For Miller, the number of different people who show up to pray on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays is proof that the Lord is working. “It’s literally the most random group ever,” she says. “We shouldn’t be connected the way we are. That just goes to show how the Lord moves, and the Holy Spirit can bring a unity that nothing else can.” 

As the group continues to meet, Gallagher’s prayer is for his peers to rise above daily distractions and fix their eyes on a greater purpose. “This year with things going on, we serve a God that is so much bigger than the noise,” he says. “Bottom line, students on campus want Jesus. They want more of Him. They want to experience what it looks like to live in true community with each other as we’re chasing after the Lord.”

Faith at Bethel

From Chapel and Vespers to mission trips and small groups, the opportunities for spiritual growth at Bethel are many—and those are just the organized events. We can’t put a number on the conversations that take place organically in a professor’s office or over coffee in Brushaber Commons.

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