Aug 07, 2017
Launch the Fall Semester with Prayer
Andy Cimbala reminds us that prayer (even more than strategic planning) is the best thing we can do to prepare to reach students as we launch our college ministries this fall semester.
Jesus says something amazing in John 15:16, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” To restate it as a sports analogy: We didn’t sign up to be on Jesus’ team, He handpicked us. And we aren’t just benchwarmers, we’re selected to be team players. This means we have free access to ask the Head Coach (the Father) for whatever resources we need. How often do you ask the Coach for help?
As we approach this new Fall semester, I want to challenge you all with one simple action: PRAY.
Prayer is talking and listening with God, and part of that conversation is asking Him for help. Jesus WANTS us to ask God the Father for the resources we need to bear fruit for His kingdom. Would you pray more if you knew God was listening and already wanted to say yes? He couldn’t state it any more plainly than in John 15:16! Expect His “yes” and pray BIG! Plus, we’re encouraged that whatever fruit we bear, it will “abide” and last. Very exciting!
Spending time in prayer will take time, and you’ll need to say no to some things so you can free up the time to pray. It’ll take discipline, but it will be worth it. I don’t need to build a theology of prayer here, there are plenty of books, articles, and podcasts about it. But here are a few practicals for when and how to pray as you launch this new Fall semester:
- This summer, pray: The best thing you can do to prepare during the summer is to pray. Do you believe that? Certainly we want to prep our talks, schedule our meetings, and plan our events, but what about prayer? Have you asked the Lord for His help in all these planned things? I challenge you to begin every prep, schedule, and plan with a pause for prayer. And when you’ve finished the item, pray again. Pray often for the new Fall semester, and invite others to join you! Example: I’ve set aside 3 days this summer to fast and pray over lunch, and have invited our student leaders, our staff team, and our prayer newsletter team to join me in prayer those days. I’ve included a list of several specific prayer items, like “Pray for God to give us 100 freshmen to invest in this Fall semester.”
- During Freshman Blitz, pray: The first 2 weeks of the semester are a CRAZY open door of opportunity! Your #1 goal is to Get Freshmen. But have you prayed? Pray for God to give you freshmen contacts, and then step forward in faith. Pray during move in help, pray during the first weekend, pray at your club fair tables, pray for those strategic first 2 weeks of classes, pray before your outreach events, pray at your first large group meeting, Sunday service, and Bible studies. And when the Lord gives you students, pray again with thanksgiving and praise!
- At student leader training, pray: Don’t merely train your student leaders IN prayer, but train them BY prayer. Inject prayer into your training meetings, more than just a perfunctory opening & closing. As you prep for the Fall kickoff leader training, consider scheduling in 30+ minutes of prayer: whether it’s a weekend retreat or just a few-hour kickoff meeting. Listen to God and ask Him for help. What are you students learning from you about how to bear fruit in God’s kingdom: to work hard in our own power, or to pray hard for God’s power?
- When you hit an obstacle, pray: There are always hiccups as the new semester gets going, like scheduling errors or details that fall through. And sometimes there’s really deflating experiences, like a student leaving your leadership or conflict with your staff team. Prayer should be our first response to difficulty, but so often we try a bunch of things in our own strength, and when nothing seems to work, THEN we pray as our last response! This is silly. We have access to the God of the Universe. No problem is too difficult for Him. Why would we not ask for His help right away? Bring in the big guns! As John Piper wrote recently, “God can do more in five seconds than we can do in five hours or months or years.” When you hit an obstacle this Fall, PRAY.
- Whatever you need, pray: What resources do you need this Fall? Pray and ask God. Pray for fresh vision & passion for your student leaders. Pray for energy and wisdom and unity for your staff team. Pray for God to give you many many contacts, pray for boldness (Eph 6:19f), and pray for open doors (Col 4:3). Pray for funding for yourself and your ministry projects. Pray for more laborers for the Harvest (Matthew 9:38). Pray for new disciples. Pray for God to even do differently than your plans if needed, since His plans are always better. Pray for God to be glorified!
- And when the Lord provides, pray!: We’re often so busy with the breakneck pace of college ministry that we forget to pause and recognize when God HAS answered our prayers. We forget to thank Him. Sometimes it’s because we’ve prayed such vague and anemic prayers that we can’t even recognize answered prayer. How should we instead respond? When God answers and provides, it gives occasion to rejoice and give Him the thanks and praise He deserves. Give Him glory! He is good and generous. “It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High;” (Psalm 92:1) Example: I often lead in a time of praise & thanksgiving at our last student leadership meeting, recounting all the ways God has worked this past semester.
What’s the danger of NOT praying for this new Fall semester? Honestly, if you fail to pray, you may still accomplish some things, but you’ll accomplish them only by your own strength. It’ll be fake fruit that won’t last. Those events and activities will be a monument to YOUR power and ability, not to God’s glory. And doing ministry without prayer cultivates dependence on yourself and independence from God. Your ministry ultimately will be stunted, and when things get rough you will have no access to the spiritual powers necessary to assist you. Your habit will be prayerlessness, and your relationship with God will wilt. I challenge you to make prayer an integral part of your ministry not just at the start of the Fall semester but all year long!
In conclusion, hear again these words of Jesus from John 15:7-8, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” God WANTS you to bear fruit! It’s the proof that you are disciples of Jesus. And you’ll bear fruit when you ASK for His help. As you finish reading this article, would you take a moment before the next thing, and ask for God’s help for the Fall semester?