‘What a God’: Thousands of worshippers gather for Collegiate Day of Prayer in Waco Hall

Students gathered together in prayer huddles to pray over topics such as forgiveness and revival. Mesha Mittanasala | Photographer

By Jackson Posey | Reporter

Thousands gathered for the Collegiate Day of Prayer on Thursday in Waco Hall, with countless more in overflow locations in Waco and across the world, praying for revival in Generation Z.

“I think what you saw was the presence of the Lord really moving within students,” Clifton sophomore Seth Payne, who helped lead worship, said. “There was a really cool moment when the guy who was presenting the gospel said that the same breath that Jesus breathed when He came alive, is in me. And I think a lot of people responded to that.”

That moment lay at the heart of the Collegiate Day of Prayer, when Antioch Community Church college pastor Austin Murray presented “the greatest news that has ever existed” — the gospel.

“God created male and female in His image in the beginning, and He created them for perfect, unhindered relationship [with God],” Murray said. “But man, in plain terms, messed that up over and over and over again. It was called sin. And what the Bible would say is that sin has a penalty, and that penalty is death. And the Bible would also say that every human has sinned. In other words, every human deserves death.”

As the adage goes, what do you want first — the good news or the bad news? For Murray, the two are inseparable. The good news isn’t some unrelated concept to the bad news; in fact, the good lies precisely in the way God responds to the bad.

“That is why He sent His only son, Jesus,” Murray said. “He loves you so much that He sent Him to be the sufficient sacrifice for the death that you owe. Jesus comes to Earth, takes on flesh, lives a sinless life. He’s beaten beyond human recognition. They jam a crown of thorns on His head. They lead Him to a cross, where they nail Him to it. And on that cross is where He takes on the wrath of God and He takes on the penalty of sin that you deserve and I deserve upon His own flesh.”

As Payne noted, the crescendo moment of Murray’s message came during his depiction of the resurrection. Christians believe that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after His crucifixion, and it’s that story that the leadership of the Collegiate Day of Prayer hopes Generation Z will rally behind.

“On the third day, as the sun began to rise, so did the chest of the Son of God, and the power of the Holy Spirit began to lift him up,” Murray said to thunderous applause. “The power of the Holy Spirit began to breathe in the dead body of Jesus, and He came to life. He sat up and walked out of that grave. And walking out of that grave, He proves that He has power over sin, power over death, power over anxiety and depression, power over pornography. … And I want to tell you that that same breath that rose Jesus from the dead rose me from the dead.”

Murray’s story of spiritual revival was echoed by many in attendance, and many more committed their lives to following Jesus as the night went on. Mateo DeGracia, a former student and a founding member of OneCry at Baylor, offered the same message of repentance: Turn from sin, and turn to Jesus.

“Repentance is not about cleaning yourself up in order to be good enough to come to God,” DeGracia said. “Repentance is not about beating yourself up and being in shame. It’s about coming to Jesus, forsaking sin and walking forward in the way of the kingdom of heaven.”

Around 2,000 Baylor students, staff, and other Waco residents worshiped in Waco Hall for the National Collegiate Day of Prayer. |Photographer: Mesha Mittanasala
Around 2,000 students, staff and Waco locals worshipped in Waco Hall for the Collegiate Day of Prayer. Mesha Mittanasala | Photographer

Buy-in toward that goal came from all directions, from students to the highest levels of university leadership. The night began with a prayer from President Linda Livingstone, who invoked the Lord’s Prayer while interceding for Generation Z.

“Let your kingdom come, and your will be done, on college campuses as it is in heaven,” Livingstone prayed.

The official broadcast was scheduled to run from 7 to 9 p.m., but worshippers began gathering at 6:30 p.m. to “preheat” the room with worship. They stayed for over three hours, alternating among worship, brief exhortations from a variety of speakers and breakout prayer times with small groups of friends and strangers. When the meeting officially ended at 9:50 p.m., a delegation of students went to continue worshipping at Elliston Chapel.

“You don’t need all of these amazing things to worship the Lord,” Virginia Beach, Va., sophomore Abi Bergethon said. “It can just be you alone in your room and just you surrendering yourself and the act of repentance in your own heart. … You don’t need glory from your repentance; you just need the Lord from it.”

Pastors John Durham of Highland Baptist Church and Jimmy Seibert of Antioch Community Church took the stage together late in the night to encourage students to not localize the impact of the event to the event itself. Bergethon took that encouragement to heart.

“I think it’s so important that we go and pray by ourselves too and continue to pray for revival — not only being consumers of this,” Bergethon said. “The ‘cultural Christianity’ on Baylor’s campus I feel like can be just surrounding us. … The Bible said that Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. [We shouldn’t let] the fear of missing out or anything stop us from just pursuing the Lord within that.”

Durham echoed the same sentiment that many attendees expressed afterward: The Collegiate Day of Prayer was great, but not because it was a big event. Its real value was as a catalyst for pursuing something greater.

“In my excitement, I want to say, ‘What an evening,’” Durham said. “But in my spirit, I need to say, ‘What a God.’”