Friday, August 22, 2014

Shifting focus to prayer

All Night of Prayer gives students sense of unity

On most Friday nights, the DeMoss parking lot is usually empty aside from a handful of skateboarders and ambitious students wondering why the computer lab closes before 2 a.m. on the weekends. However, this past Friday night and Saturday morning, the DeMoss parking lot was home to a more diverse crowd that had gathered on the pavement for one common cause: to pray.

With humbled hearts — At a leadership service, student leaders prepared for the year ahead and for that evening’s All Night of Prayer event. Photo credit: Ruth Bibby

Hosted by the Office of Student Leadership, All Night of Prayer is an event that occurs at the beginning of each school year right before Spiritual Emphasis Week. Campus pastor Chris Deitsch was talking and praying with students, and he said he believed that this Liberty tradition is a great way to start the year off.

“The All Night of Prayer is an event that distinguishes Liberty as a university whose focus and direction is to God. We kick off our year with thousands of students coming from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. to pray for their lives, their friends and family and for God to do something on this campus. I think that’s incredible,” Deitsch said.

Tealight candles flickered inside white paper bags that lined the sidewalks and the DeMoss parking lot as students came from different parts of campus through all hours of the night. Most came with their residence halls, each of which were assigned a specific time slot to come out and pray. Students were first greeted by two large white banners, one with Dr. Jerry Falwell Sr.’s famous words, “Nothing of eternal significance ever happens apart from prayer,” painted boldly on them, and the next with 2 Chronicles 7:14 on it. Students then branched off to stop and pray at one of the dozens of stations set up all around the parking lot.

Each station focused on a different theme. Students were encouraged to spend time in prayer over people such as Liberty faculty members, the Falwells and missionaries.

Other stations focused on personal surrender, confession and thanking God. On each of the DeMoss steps was a name or adjective to describe God, and in the Grand Lobby, musicians such as Devin Coogan led worship.

Some students prayed in groups, while others curled up by themselves on the curb or steps of DeMoss. A few sprawled out on the lawn, and large groups also overflowed into the Religion Hall parking lot to pray or sing worship songs.

Amanda Rider, an RA on Dorm 33-4, said that the All Night of Prayer helped her start the year by refocusing on what is truly important.

“It’s been great, not focusing on myself for a night and knowing that there are thousands of other students praying with me throughout the night and knowing the things in our school are being prayed over,” Rider said. “It’s a great reminder that there are more things to focus on in life than myself.”

Freshman Chloe Friederichsen came to All Night of Prayer with her hall and brother dorm from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m. She said that the event gave her a greater appreciation for the school, as well as a sense of unity.

“I thought it was such a memorable moment to look up from praying and know that the rest of the school would be praying all night long,” Friederichsen said. “Everyone would sacrifice time they could be sleeping to spend time with our Lord. I felt so lucky to have the opportunity to come to this school. I felt like a part of something big.”

Deitsch said that the fact that students come out all night shows how much students believe in prayer.

“It’s easy to show up for a service,” Deitsch said. “But we have residence halls that are slated to show up at 2 a.m. or later, who have to set alarms and wake up and come. I think (that) shows that we’re committed to the power of prayer. We believe that nothing of eternal significance ever happens apart from prayer, not just in what we say but what we show tonight.”

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