HEARTLAND | Jeff Jones
Evan was involved in a small youth group at his home church until he went away to college. While at college his faith was tested, but eventually strengthened to the point that he felt compelled to return to his home church and share his passion for Christ with his youth group. He shared one night with 17 students who all were transformed as a result of hearing the simple 4-point message:
1. You must confess any known sin to God, and put right any wrong done to man.
2. You must put away any doubtful habit out of your life.
3. You must obey the Spirit’s promptings immediately.
4. You must confess your faith in Christ publicly.
This simple meeting began a movement of God which we now know as the Welsh Revival of 1904-05. Evan Roberts was a young college student who saw God’s Spirit work powerfully resulting in a “nation sweeping” movement. In five months, more than 100,000 people were saved. The country was changed so much that courts had no cases to try, police had no crimes to solve, the birth rate for unwed mothers dropped by almost half in two counties, and the churches were filled in every town. All this began with one college student fully surrendered to the Lord.
Most people today associate college students with some very dangerous and destructive behaviors such as drugs, alcohol, sex, parties and irresponsibility. Based on experience and encounters I’ve had with students on the college campus, some of these characterizations can be true. More than any other time in our history, the opportunities for sin and worldliness are available and acceptable in the culture in which we find ourselves. Collegians are surrounded not only by sinfulness, but increasingly they are practically expected to adhere to godlessness, which is advocated on almost every university campus in our nation.
But, if we are praying and believing God for spiritual awakening and revival, then more than anything, based on our understanding of how God has worked in all of history, we should beg God for the hearts and lives of college students. Almost every great movement of God has been sparked by the brokenness and desperation of college-aged individuals who long for God’s Spirit to bring revival. As a matter of fact, many revivals began on secular college campuses after Christian students came face-to-face with God in prayer. One campus would affect another campus, and then it would spread to churches and even to public arenas. The conviction of the Holy Spirit would wash over students, and they would become contagious as they boldly shared the Gospel as the basis of their transformed lives.
How can we pray for college students?
1. Pray that college students would understand the urgency to be submitted to the lordship of Jesus Christ every day. Ask God to protect them from a consumer approach to Christianity and the church so that they would see everything else as insignificant in comparison to knowing Christ and being found in Him.
2. Pray that college students would understand the demand of holiness on their lives that comes from Jesus. Pray that they take seriously the relationship of purity they have with the Father and seek to “be holy because I am holy.” Pray that repentance and forsaking of sin would be a habit that defines their walk with God.
3. Pray that college students would join together in prayer groups and seek God while calling out the names of students who are lost. Pray that the Spirit of God would open their eyes to the conditions around them, and burden them for their campuses.
4. Pray that college students would take responsibility and ownership of their faith, investing themselves in the lives of others who will come to Christ, share the Gospel and live holy lives as well. Paul’s charge to Timothy was, “No one should despise your youth; instead, you should be an example to the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).
5. Pray that God’s Spirit and His Word would become the standards from which students make life decisions such as whom to date, whom to marry, what occupation they will enter, what friendships they will value. The college years in our culture are when most adults make major decisions that shape the rest of their lives. Pray that they will follow Jesus in these choices.
College students are not the future of our church; they are the church. Take some time today to love, invest in and pray for the college students in your life.
This article originally appeared in Baptist Press Feb. 8, 2013. Jeff Jones is the Baptist Collegiate Ministry campus minister at the University of Memphis in Memphis, Tenn.