“Write down the first five names that come to your mind,” Principal Isaac said, opening Prayer Day at Hillcrest Academy last month. A shuffling of papers and pens washed over the silence in the old gym. With every student bouncing names of friends and acquaintances through their mind a unique start to prayer day set the stage for the school. Today was about building community through prayer.
Students fixed their eyes on Principal Isaac for the first session. A teaching on prayer preceded a presentation of the Gospel. The focus on Jesus helped students understand the work of the cross. The stage was set for communication with God because of Jesus' work. With the Gospel in the fore of students' minds, the lights dimmed and a group of Norwegian students made their way to the stage.
A room filled with fifteen circles of chairs, the old gym was encompassed with groups of people who were randomly placed together in chair pods. Students and staff spent the day focused outwardly rather than inwardly. It didn't phase the body of Hillcrest students that they weren't sitting next to best friends. Their comfort in praying outloud wasn't a problem. The practice of bowing heads in unison was uniting.
Along with open prayer time, Hillcrest’s staff arranged to have twenty-minute slots set aside for particular prayers and scripture to meditate on. With each time slot came a new theme. A couple hundred people, thanking God for his blessings for twenty-minutes, followed with worship. Every student and leader was singing, some lifting hands high, united in one loud voice declaring the love of God. The room radiated from the worship of Jesus Christ.
After lunch a new sense of community wafted into the gym as students gathered to continue their day of outward focus. Knowing there were Christian and non-Christian students gathered, their presence showed a bond that only Jesus can build, regardless of a conscious belief in God. A senior from Iran stood before his peers during the post-lunch share time. He stepped up to the mic as Prayer Day was coming to an end. His words cast a look of surprise on many of his friends in the audience.
“I am not Christian. I am not Muslim. But I just have to say- whatever you guys are- you’re awesome. And these past six months [at Hillcrest] have been the best six months of my life.”
By the time the day was over every student prayed for world leaders, ISIS, and Hillcrest’s family. The school year is drastically different after a day of prayer and reflection.