How to pray for students
Universities will always be influential places, where ideas and philosophies are born and grow. They will always be a seedbed for decision-makers in every major field - education, science and technology, law, commerce...
There is an established university system in the majority of the world's countries. A few universities are huge, with a fifth of a million students; most have several thousand students, often strewn around many parts of a city; some colleges are only a fraction of that size.
They each reflect the situation in their country. For example:
- in turbulent times, universities are closed;
- after war or genocide, students struggle with the trauma of what they saw and heard;
- in affluent countries, students tend to be less serious about study;
- in countries emerging from Communism, students are asking how they should be governed.
Believe what you like?
Are students free to believe what they like? That's not a simple question. There is great pressure in Islamic, Buddhist and Hindu nations to observe the faith of the land. In Communist countries, Christian meetings are not allowed on campus. It takes real courage to be a Christian in these situations, and sometimes Christians have to remain secret believers. In the West the insidious pressures of materialism and pleasure-seeking squeeze out any sense of the need for salvation. But our sovereign God can break into students' hearts.
Athens then and now
The Apostle Paul gave a forthright address to the intellectuals in Athens (Acts 17), presenting to them the God who is not far from any of us, and who wants us to 'reach out for him and find him'. When the Athenians heard about the resurrection, some sneered, others said they would like to hear more, and a few believed. We see the same reactions today.
Often students fear the gospel would limit their freedom. They know it has moral implications, and sometimes these seem just too great. We must pray for the Holy Spirit to convince students of their need of a Saviour, and of what it means to be truly free.
But year after year we do see hundreds profess faith. For some it is the reasoned argument of the speaker which matters. For others, in a world of fractured relationships, it is the emphasis on a God who wants us to know him personally.