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Grasping God’s hands: new ministry emphasizes different types of prayer

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“We all assume that we pray because Christians pray, but honestly? How much are we praying? And what does that look like?” These are some of the questions that motivated Hannah Biggs, a senior at Calvin, to begin a teaching prayer ministry new to Calvin’s campus this semester. Every Tuesday night, a group of students gather in the Beets-Veenstra basement from 8 to 9:30 p.m. to practice and learn about prayer in order to grow in their relationship with God and strengthen their effectiveness in the kingdom.

The teaching prayer ministry is not a Bible study. Biggs said, “It’s different in that we are studying scripture, but we are more focused upon the daily inner workings of you and God relationally, strengthening our muscles of prayer by learning about and practicing different types of prayer.” The teaching ministry alternates every other week. One week is a workshop meeting where student leaders prepare the teaching, and the following week is the teaching itself.

All students are welcome to attend the workshop meetings, which focus on tackling big questions such as “why pray?”

“It’s almost like a group catechism,” said Biggs. “When someone asks you a question about your faith, and you’re challenged to think about it […] you have to think about how you would teach it to someone else. And the purpose of the workshops is to prepare the teaching for next week, and so it’s putting students in this position of input that can be very effective in growing our own faith. We can learn a lot from each other! ”

The workshop meetings are typically loosely structured and conversational; student leaders pray in advance about topics for the week, relying on the Holy Spirit to bring up what needs to be discussed. The workshops also allow students to learn by drawing on multiple people’s testimonies. Together, students ask, “How is God speaking to us, now?”

A unique aspect of the teaching prayer ministry is that it is entirely run by student leaders. Students Becky Baar and Hannah Biggs meet periodically with Chaplain Mary Hulst for additional wisdom, insight and accountability concerning the teaching.

“I think it’s really powerful with student leaders, to realize God trusts you and calls you to be a part of the Church right where you are,” says Biggs.

Every other week the student leaders present the teaching they had developed in the workshop time. After opening in prayer and presenting the teaching, students are invited to put the teaching into practice. Biggs explained that practicing what is taught is one of the most important things the teaching prayer ministry is doing. “[Prayer] is a muscle you exercise and can discipline yourself in exercising. The more we direct our thought to God in everything…the more natural it becomes.”

The ministry also encourages students to consistently set aside time to spend with God.  “It can be a breath of fresh air when you’ve said ‘I’m going to go to this thing on Tuesday night, and I’m not gonna do homework, nobody’s gonna interrupt me, and I know I have that time with God. Even that step of intentionality I think, if you give God even one small thing, God multiplies it.”

Students have already seen God take and multiply what they have poured into the teaching prayer ministry. They are not a ministry that exists to compete with other ministries: “We exist because we long to grow in deeper relationship with God and to see our friends and brothers and sisters in Christ grow too. Prayer, and space to attend to it, is essential to that growth. We don’t have it all figured out, but know we can approach God boldly with our questions and our doubts. Healthy lives of prayer and patterns of relationship with God are necessary on a campus equipping people for work in the kingdom.” For more information about the ministry, contact Hannah Biggs at [email protected]

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