‘The Lord’s going to move’: Baylor prepares to host Collegiate Day of Prayer

Every year, students gather on the last Thursday of February to pray for revival in their schools and communities. This year’s gathering will begin at 7 p.m. Thursday in Waco Hall, but its influence is expected to stretch far beyond Waco. Kassidy Tsikitas | Photo Editor

By Jackson Posey | Reporter

For the first time, the 200-year-old Collegiate Day of Prayer is coming to Waco, bringing with it hopes of the same revivalism that touched Asbury University in 2023.

“I don’t know a ton of what the night’s going to look like, but I do know that we’ve been praying for this for so long, just begging the Lord to bring revival,” Independence, Minn., sophomore Charlie Ficek, a Christian blogger and Pathway leader, said. “When you get believers coming together in the way they’re going to on this day, the Lord’s going to move.”

Every year, students gather on the last Thursday of February to pray for revival in their schools and communities. This year’s gathering will begin at 7 p.m. Thursday in Waco Hall, but its influence is expected to stretch far beyond Waco. Thai Lam, co-founder of the Collegiate Day of Prayer and executive director of the Luke18 Project, said the event will be livestreamed and broadcast in 110 countries, from South America to East Asia.

“I think what’s cool is that the gathering is mostly a prayer meeting,” Lam said. “It’s less about a big production or a big band. All the worship is from Waco. All the people on stage are either students or Baylor administrators or Waco pastors. And I’m the only outsider really onstage, but I’m mostly just facilitating. But we want to tell the story of what God is doing here at Baylor and what God’s doing among the churches and ministries of Waco.”

For Lam, “small is the new big.” Asbury earned a reputation for shunning big-name preachers and worship artists in favor of fostering a more personal, communal environment. The leadership of the Collegiate Day of Prayer hopes to replicate that mentality.

“We value ‘big,’ … but honestly, most prayer is going to be 10 people sitting in a circle in a living room in some dorm and having what feels like a pretty weak prayer meeting,” Lam said. “But where we oftentimes miss it is that our meeting may be weak, our gathering may feel not super impactful, but we have a very powerful God that both desires to partner with us and cares more about the things that we’re asking for than we do.

“We don’t need to have Collegiate Day of Prayer moments as the primary, but we do need the things like Elliston Chapel, and we need the things like Last Thursdays, and we need the Empire Seed prayer gatherings. It’s going to be lots of ‘small’ that really leads up to the ‘big.’”

Lam pointed to a 1970 revival at Asbury as a historical parallel to Generation Z’s spiritual “hunger.” Amid deep social upheaval exemplified by the sexual revolution and anti-war movement, an Asbury student named Jeannine Brabon began praying for every one of her peers by name.

“She got from the administration a list of every student, and for three years, she had a three-ring binder with every student and just prayed for them by name,” Lam said. “Her senior year, revival broke out.”

That revival, which began 54 years ago this month, created a ripple effect that splashed throughout the country. Some of the students moved to southern California, helping light a fire that grew into what TIME magazine called “The Jesus Revolution.” Those leading the Collegiate Day of Prayer hope that kind of “fire” can burn again.

“It kind of opens my eyes to say, ‘Man, there’s more to come,’” Dr. Charles Ramsey, director for campus ministries and church connections at Baylor, said. “We’re being awakened to Christ, and I think He loves us enough to say, ‘Now I’m going to put you to work. I’m going to give you a vision and a passion, and I’m going to take you into the city. I’m going to let you love on and be loved on by churches you don’t know. … And in that sharpening, I’m going to give you purpose. I’m going to give you a calling.’”

In 1945, a revival broke out at Baylor. Like Asbury in 1970, post-World War II Baylor was in the midst of world-shaking, paradigm-shifting social turmoil. And amid that unrest, swarms of students began turning to God.

Part of that story is documented in Bruce McIver’s book, “Riding the Wind of God,” a firsthand account of the Youth Revival Movement at Baylor. Decades after it was first published, it remains deeply relevant to the spiritual life of Baylor and Waco.

“It’s amazing because I’m reading about all these buildings — like Tidwell, I’m reading about the SUB — and these streets in the city,” Ramsey said. “And there’s all these stories of students just stepping out and praying and proclaiming God’s word and having these public meetings of prayer and faith.”

The quest for revival is not unique to Baylor. In the past year, worship events at public universities like Oklahoma, Auburn and Florida State have seen thousands of students come forward to repent of their sins and put their faith in Jesus, with hundreds choosing to be baptized on the spot. Amid a widespread pursuit of revival, Ficek said he believes it’s already here.

“I think revival is a very nuanced term, because you hear of the Billy Graham revivals or all of these big movements where it swept the nation [and] a bunch of people came to believe. That was what my definition or belief of revival was for a long time,” Ficek said. “But it’s all about people wanting more of the Lord. It is places you see miracles happen and places you see eternities changed. … It’s just a deep, deep yearning for the Lord and for His movement, to feel His presence, just to rest in Him.”

The official prayer gathering may only last for a couple of hours, but the organizers — and the 40-plus Waco-area churches that have committed to praying for Baylor students during the season — are hoping it spawns something much more: revival.

“It’s just been really beautiful what God’s been doing here,” Lam said of his time in Waco. “United prayer across churches, across ministries, across generations — just to pray, ‘Lord, we believe you. Come and move at Baylor. Come and move in Waco.’ And so, I’m just expectant for what God’s doing here to be something that would light a fire in many college towns across America.”