By Tom Boyle, Director of Staff Training and Development

Collegiate Day of Prayer

Thursday, February 23, 2012, InterVarsity joined in celebrating a new affirmation of an old tradition that disappeared in the middle of the 20th century – the national Collegiate Day of Prayer. Historically it was common for churches and Christian groups to pause and pray specifically for the campus – the students, the faculty, the institution, and even the culture.

Reviving the Day of Prayer

Two years ago a small group of people of prayer wanted to begin the long process to reclaim the day and revive the tradition. The fourth Thursday in February was an annual prayer day for more than 150 years in this country. It was a day focused on the campus, the place where leaders are trained and their hearts and spirits are forged for that leadership.

Throughout our history, the champions of prayer for the campus were the churches. All of the pastors and all of the denominational leaders came through the campus. They knew how important it was that we continue the tradition of prayer that sustains faith in the world of contending ideas. They lived in the reality that their churches were reliant on a vibrant crop of new leaders that came only from the campus. Lose the campus, and you lose the future.

And somehow, along the way, the campus was lost. It did not happen overnight, but by the time of the mid 20th century, instead of the whole campus embracing the reality of the Gospel it was only in smaller segments where the message of Jesus was championed and shared. There were new ‘gods’ around who drew the crowds, new ‘festivals’ that attracted the loyalty of students. The ‘daily chapel’ experience fell into disuse. So, who is it that prays today? Is there a remnant that God can use?

The Need for Prayer

Great negotiating or debating skills will no longer carry the day on the campus. Eloquent speech will perhaps awaken questions, but we need the Holy Spirit to break out as never before. We need the Jesus of power to come and join in our gatherings. We need hearts changed, not just minds challenged. We need prayer. Why now? There was never a better or more important time.

Access on the campus is threatened as never before. In 1981, the Widmar case settled the issue in the Supreme Court for two generations. The vote was 9-0 that all public campuses must allow any student group to gather regardless of their beliefs. 

In 2010 the Martinez case went the other way by a narrow 5-4 margin. It was a narrowly focused decision, but it was a clear indicator that the culture of the courts has changed in much the same way that the culture of the campus has changed. There was never a time in our past when prayer was more important for the campus than it is today.

People are Praying

People are committing to pray. As of February 17th, there were 1167 campuses that were covered. A total of 596 student groups plan to gather on their campus to pray – some for 24 hours (you can get more current data at

Is your campus with them? Is your church praying for the campus in their city, or the ones that they send their students to? In our culture, it is normative for students to go away to college, lose their faith, and give in to the prevailing ethos on the campus, often with disastrous results.

At Urbana 09, Sunder Krishnan, a pastor from Toronto, electrified the audience with his talk on the importance of intercessory prayer. He shouted in a ringing voice as he closed, “The future belongs to the intercessors!” God is waiting for us to join with him and claiming the future. Will you join and lay claim to the campus for the Kingdom and reverse this erosion of access to the campus and the students we find there? Join us on the 23rd of February, and pray that we are seeing the opening moves of the Third Great Awakening in this country.

Need some ideas? 4 Ways to Pray for the Campus