Editor’s note: The Bears for Prayer website URL has been updated to its current location
By Meghan Hendrickson
More than 120 Baylor students have committed to pray for the nations of the world in 15-minute shifts to cover every minute of every day. The initiative is part of what the group hopes will become a campus prayer movement, lasting as long as there are participants.
From midnight to 12:15 a.m. Saturday, Deer Park sophomore Austin Bratcher will kick off Bears for Prayer, a movement for “God’s mission around the world.”
Bratcher got the idea for the prayer movement over Christmas break while reading “Let the Nations be Glad” by John Piper.
In the book, Piper mentions Jim Elliot, an evangelical Christian missionary to the Waodani people of Ecuador in the 1950s, who was killed by the Waodani in 1956.
Piper discusses a prayer movement Elliot started in the 1940s at Wheaton College in Illinois, before he ever went to Ecuador.
“He had 24 hours of prayer for mission recruitment on campus and God’s mission around the world,” Bratcher said. “Doing something of this nature is something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and then after reading it I was like, ‘This is really simple to do.’”
After Christmas, Bratcher sent a Facebook message to three of his closest Baylor friends about the prayer team he envisioned. All three were on board with Bratcher’s vision, and the team began to reach out to campus ministry leaders and students once spring classes commenced.
If one person prays for 15 minutes, it takes 96 people to pray nonstop for one full day. The team said they were excited as they watched the 96-person goal pass by with students continuing to volunteer to pray.
“The biggest thing I want to see out of the group is Baylor students actively serving in God’s mission for the world, whether it be here in the states or overseas, but doing it passionately — doing it so they can glorify God,” Bratcher said. “Ultimately, the whole purpose of it all is to glorify God with all that we have, because that’s what prayer is — prayer is just talking to God.”
The team will send out daily emails with information about a specific country, leading participants to pray for that country that day. Information will come from the book, “Operation World: The Definitive Prayer Guide to Every Nation.” After one year, the group aims for Baylor students to have prayed for every nation of the world by following the “Operation World” prayer guide.
Foreman, Ark., sophomore Lauren Galligani is one of the three friends helping Bratcher lead Bears for Prayer.
“I think having this discipline of 15 minutes of prayer is going to take dedication, and I think it’s really going to strengthen people’s faith,” Galligani said. “The ones that have to wake up at four in the morning and pray for 15 minutes — go, you guys. That’s going to be awesome.”
Orange, Calif., sophomore Jaclyn Strunk, another friend of Bratcher’s and one of the team leaders, said she is excited about what 15 minutes of daily prayer for the nations could manifest in the hearts of the students praying.
“It just might stir up desire in their heart for them to actually want to go and serve the Lord through missions, or in whatever work they’re going into,” Strunk said.
“Just knowing that through their prayer they can really change the people around them — it really is something that is powerful.”
Although all four friends leading the group agree that God has impressed upon their hearts a call to missions, they understand not every prayer volunteer is going to fight to end human trafficking with the International Justice Mission or serve as a medical missionary in disaster relief situations.
In fact, St. Louis, sophomore Zachary Schmidt, one of the four team leaders, believes Bears for Prayer could be a great way for those who feel distant from God, or who doubt if God hears their prayers, to feel near to the Lord once more.
“If you feel far away from God, what’s a better way to get back to him than talking to him?” Schmidt said.
Bratcher said the door is always open for more students to join in Bears for Prayer, and he looks forward to how God will use this in the lives of those at Baylor and around the world.
“We’re praying to the creator of the world — the creator of the universe,” Bratcher said. “Mankind was created in God’s image, in a perfect image, and when we sinned, we fell apart from that. Prayer is our attempt to just talk to God and speak to him in a way that we once could. Our prayer for the world is that everyone can come and know their creator, realize who they were created to be and how they can serve in God’s mission.”
Galligani said she sees the potential for change behind this prayer movement.
“Ultimately, God will hear our prayers, and he has the power to change things in other countries,” Galligani said. “So obviously what we’re aiming for is to change the world.”
Jared Slack, coordinator for Chapel and worship, said he loves seeing students take initiative in this way.
“What’s cool about it is the fact that these students are picking apart something that’s bigger than them,” Slack said.
“It’s a group rather than an individual. It’s realizing that when we pray we’re kind of joining together. I’m excited to see how it goes.”