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by Julie Loos
In part one of this series, we looked at the important role college has in influencing culture for good or bad, how the first universities were profoundly affected by their intimate connection with the church, and how that connection has been severed. In part 2, we’ll explore how church-led prayer movements positively impacted the campus and society, where we dropped the ball, and why I believe there is a biblical mandate to pick it up again.
Praying Moms, the Campus, and an Evangelist
When American evangelist D.L. Moody preached at Cambridge to an antagonistic group of young college students, he was so distraught at their lack of attention that out of desperation he called on an army of 300 moms to pray. He said that their prayers literally “turned the tide” and that the previously unreceptive college men listened and responded to his message. This soon led to revival, out of which came “the Cambridge Seven,” a group of young men who changed world missions. Moody then brought his meetings to America which spawned more student conferences and missions movements. For over 25 years, Moody sought the help and support during evangelistic campaigns of sometimes up to 1,500 praying moms.
America's First Collegiate Prayer Movement
Throughout American history, our colleges have benefited from the transformative power of intense seasons of spiritual awakening and revival. The Second Great Awakening (1790-1845) produced our most powerful student revivals and the prayer movement that sustained them. Renewed monthly Concerts of Prayer in the mid 1780s were greatly responsible. For half a century America experienced genuine revival in one part of our nation or another.
The Church Steps in and Steps Up
Seeing the impact of these revivals, church leaders decided to apply the proven principles of the Concert of Prayer movement to the needs of college students. By 1815, the Concert of Prayer for Colleges had become a regular feature on at least four campuses. By 1823, almost every major denomination and university in America had embraced the practice of a concerted day of prayer for colleges. They prayed specifically “for special supplication that God would pour His Spirit upon our Colleges and Seminaries.” God answered mightily: in 1824 and 1825, revivals in five different colleges; in 1826-- six colleges; in 1831-- nineteen; in 1835, eighteen were reported. The universities of the time were transformed culturally and morally. Ministers were actually encouraging parents to send their children to college as a place to be safe and soundly converted. Can you imagine? Now our students go to college and are de-converted!
These students, inspired by the Holy Spirit, were about to launch into critical positions of influence in society transferring campus transformation into social change—that could happen again in our time. It’s worth noting that the prayer movements of the time were led by students, not preachers…
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