40 Ways to Pray for the 2019-2020 School Year

As we approach the start of a new school year, one of the most important ways you can partner with what God is doing through Bama Wesley in the new year is to join us in prayer for the year ahead. Beginning July 13 (40 days before classes begin), we invite you to join us in praying for students, the campus, and Wesley’s staff and leadership as we prepare for the year ahead. Below are some suggested topics, including a schedule of significant events to pray for during the rest of the summer.  

  1. Freshmen students
  2. Transfer students
  3. Returning students
  4. Graduate students
  5. Students who are away from home for the first time
  6. International students
  7. Students taking summer classes
  8. Faculty, staff, and students in the College of Arts and Sciences
  9. Faculty, staff, and students in the College of Communications and Information Sciences
  10. Faculty, staff, and students in the College of Business
  11. Faculty, staff, and students in the College of Education
  12. Faculty, staff, and students in the College of Engineering
  13. Faculty, staff, and students in the Honors College
  14. Faculty, staff, and students in the College of Human Environmental Sciences
  15. Faculty, staff, and students in the College of Nursing
  16. Faculty, staff, and students in the School of Nursing
  17. President Bell and others in the university’s administration
  18. Students living on campus
  19. Students living off-campus
  20. Other campus ministries at UA
  21. Students considering a change in major
  22. Students facing insecurity in their housing, food, and other similar circumstances
  23. Students facing physical or mental health concerns
  24. Students who feel lonely or isolated on campus
  25. Greek organizations on campus
  26. Other clubs and groups on campus
  27. Local churches who will serve college students
  28. Parents
  29. Students who will participate in a Phoenix, Ember, or Spark Group
  30. Bama Wesley’s worship services on Monday and Wednesday evenings
  31. Bama Wesley’s Worship Team
  32. Bama Wesley’s Fellowship Team
  33. Bama Wesley’s Discipleship Team
  34. Bama Wesley’s Outreach Team
  35. Bama Wesley’s Administration Team
  36. Bama Wesley’s Communications Team
  37. Bama Wesley’s Ministry as Career program
  38. Bama Wesley’s Interns and student staff
  39. Bama Wesley’s Executive (Pastoral) Staff
  40. Week of Welcome

Significant Events

While everything listed above can (and should!) be prayed for during the summer, there are some significant events between now and the first week of classes that you may want to consider praying for specifically.

DateEventPrayer Focus
July 15 – 16Bama Bound SessionFreshman and Transfer Students
July 17 – 18Bama Bound SessionFreshman and Transfer Students
July 22 – 23Bama Bound SessionFreshman and Transfer Students
July 24 – 25Bama Bound SessionFreshman and Transfer Students
August 7 – 9Early Move-InStudents participating in early move-in activities
(Sorority Recruitment, Million Dollar Band, Alabama
Action, Outdoor Action, Health Action, Camp 1831,
Biology Boot Camp, student athletes)
August 13 – 15Wesley Intern RetreatWesley’s staff and leadership
August 14Bama Bound SessionFreshman and Transfer Students
August 15Bama Bound SessionFreshman and Transfer Students
August 16Bama Bound SessionFreshman and Transfer Students
August 16 – 18Move-InStudents who will live on campus
Parents
August 19 – 23Week of WelcomeWeek of Welcome
Freshman and Transfer Students
Wesley’s staff and leadership
August 21First Day of ClassesStudents’ first day of the new year
August 23 – 24Back to School RetreatStudents Wesley has reached during Week of Welcome

Lenten Fasting

For 40 days (excluding Sundays) before Easter, the universal Church observes the season of Lent. During this season, we remember Jesus’ 40 days of prayer, fasting, and temptation in the desert before beginning his earthly ministry, and are ourselves reminded of our humanity and our need for God’s grace in our lives.

Throughout history, Christians have used the season of Lent as a time of fasting. Throughout scripture, the discipline of fasting has been used in a variety of ways: for discernment, for repentance, as a sign of grief, and as an expression of devotion to and dependence on God.

What is fasting?

At its most basic level, fasting is the discipline of giving something up in order to deepen our relationship with God.

The purpose of fasting, then, is twofold. First, fasting is a reminder of our utter dependence on God. When we fast, we are reminded of Jesus’ words that “People won’t live only by bread, but by every word spoken by God” (Matthew 4:4 CEB). In fasting, we are reminded that it us ultimately God, not what we eat, drink, or do, that is the source of life.

Secondly, fasting is a process of self-examination wherein we examine our lives to identify the things other than God that control us. Oftentimes, we have to give something up in order to recognize just how fully it controls and directs our lives – give up social media, for instance, and you’ll quickly realize how often you pick up your phone to idly scroll through Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. A major goal of fasting, then, is to identify these things and remove them from our lives as a reminder of how ultimately insignificant they are.

Types of Fasts

Dietary Fasts

Most instances of fasting found in scripture are dietary fasts, where we fast by making some type of change to our diet. Often, dietary fasts are most effective when the time that would otherwise be used preparing and eating a meal is instead devoted to prayer and the study of scripture.

There are three main types of dietary fasts:

  • Total Fast: A total fast is the most intense form of fasting, and involves abstaining from all food and drink for a period of time. Historically, total fasts have only been used in extreme circumstances where there is a dire need for God’s presence and intervention in a situation.
  • Water-Only Fast: Water-only fasts are just that: abstaining from all food and drink other than water for a period of time.
  • Partial Fast: Partial fasts cover a wide range of practices, and involve the removal of a particular food (or type of food) from one’s diet for a period of time. What will be most effective will vary between individuals, but some of the most common popular options include alcohol, meat, caffeine, sweet/sugary foods, soda, and fast food.

The Wesley Fast

The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, famously had a weekly fasting discipline where he would engage in a water-only fast from sundown Thursday through midafternoon Friday (and, for a period, sundown Tuesday through midafternoon Wednesday), even going so far at one point as to require this practice of clergy serving under his authority. If you’ve never tried fasting before, this may be a good way to begin, and regardless of your experience with fasting can be a beneficial addition to your personal discipleship whether for a season or indefinitely.

An important note about dietary fasts: While fasting can yield significant spiritual benefits, you should only do it if you are healthy enough to do so. In particular, total and water-only fasts should be limited, generally only to a day at a time. It’s worth noting that even in scripture, there is only a record of extended total or water-only fasts by those such as Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. If in doubt, and especially if you are considering a longer total or water-only fast, seek the advice and supervision of a medical professional.

Non-Dietary Fasts

Non-dietary fasts are those in which we give up something other than food, typically a particular activity or behavior. This may be for health reasons, or it may be due to our own self-examination and recognition that our relationship with God will be deepened more by abstaining from something other than food.

Effective non-dietary fasts will vary from person to person, but as a general rule whatever you give up should be something you will feel the absence of on a regular basis. Some ideas include:

  • Video games
  • Social media
  • TV/Netflix
  • Eating out
  • Spending money on particular things such as clothing, or more broadly spending money except on essentials such as food and gas

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list, and you may well find that something else is more beneficial to deepening your relationship with God.

“Positive” Fasts

Though not truly a fast as found in scripture or church tradition, so-called “positive” fasts may still be beneficial for some. In positive fasts, one adopts additional spiritual disciplines and practices rather than giving something up. This may include extended daily time in prayer and the study of scripture, serving in the church or the community, or increased financial generosity.

Things to Remember when Fasting

  • Fasting should be sacrificial. Fasting is designed to involve an element of sacrifice, and should be felt on a regular (ideally daily) basis. If you don’t play video games, for instance, fasting from them isn’t going to be much of a sacrifice.
  • Fasting is not designed to be a diet or a self-help program. While there may well be some health and other such benefits to fasting, that is not its primary goal. Likewise, fasting is not necessarily the time to give up bad habits that we should rid ourselves of anyway. Rather, the goal of fasting is a deeper relationship with God by identifying and removing the things in our life other than God that control us – even things that aren’t inherently bad but are nevertheless distracting.
  • Remember Jesus’ words about fasting. In Matthew 6, Jesus offers some instructions about how to fast: “And when you fast, don’t put on a sad face like the hypocrites. They distort their faces so people will know they are fasting. I assure you that they have their reward. When you fast, brush your hair and wash your face. Then you won’t look like you are fasting to people, but only to your Father who is present in that secret place. Your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
    When we fast, our goal is not to gain the approval of others or to engage in an outward sign of piety. Rather, our focus is on God, and we trust that when we fast God knows it without us proclaiming it. So, for instance, if you’re going to fast from social media, don’t make post about what you’re doing: just sign out, delete the apps, and let that be that.
  • Consider what you’ll do instead of what you’re giving up. Fasting is most effective when we replace what we’re giving up with something that directs our focus back toward God. When fasting, consider using the time that you would have spent on what you gave up in prayer, the study of scripture, acts of service, or something else that focuses your attention toward God.
  • Be flexible. Remember that we are saved by grace and faith, not our actions. Fasting isn’t a way to “earn” our way to salvation, but rather is a way of making our prayer life and our awareness of God’s voice more effective. In that spirit, don’t get so caught up with the act of fasting that you forget why you’re doing it in the first place.
  • Make a plan and stick to it. As with any goal, fasting is most effective when you’ve already thought through how you’ll respond to the inevitable temptation to break the fast. Feeling the urge to get back on Facebook just to see what notifications you’ve missed? Call up a friend and see if they want to hang out. Up late studying for an exam and wanting to go by Starbucks just this once? Swing by Wesley and make yourself a cup of coffee in the Keurig.
  • Invite others to hold you accountable. While in fasting our goal is not to publicize what we’re doing publicly, there’s a difference between “showy piety” and accountability. Share your fast with some others you trust and invite them to hold you accountable to it (protip: if you’re in an Ember or Phoenix Group these are great avenues for this).

Want to read more about fasting? Here are some additional resources:

General Conference

Hey Wesley,

As many of you know, the United Methodist General Conference wrapped up today and adopted the Traditional Plan, which is the most conservative plan considered. We’ve already heard from many of you with questions and concerns about what this means for the United Methodist Church, and for Wesley specifically, going forward.

We’ll be sharing a lot more during our Post-General Conference Foundations Workshop on Monday (March 4) at 7pm after dinner. For now, though, we wanted to some initial thoughts and reactions that we hope will be helpful as you’re processing all this. At the end of this post you’ll find a video message from Wade, and you can click here for a more detailed writeup from John.

As you’re processing all this, know this: you are loved by both God and us, you are welcome, and God is not surprised by anything that has happened in the last three days. 

We’re here for you, and we’re grateful to be your pastors. If you want to talk more about any of this, let us know.

Grace and Peace,

Wade and John

Video Message from Wade

21 Days of Prayer to Begin the 2018-2019 School Year

As we prepare to welcome students to campus, whether they’re returning or arriving for the first time, our first and most important task is to ensure that they, the campus, and the coming school year are covered in prayer. To help us start the school year well, you are invited to join us in 21 days of prayer for the three weeks before classes begin. Especially if you’re a current student, this is a great opportunity to get (back) into the habit of prayer before your schedule gets taken up by classes.

When We’re Praying

Whether you’re a current student, parent, alum, donor, or anyone else who believes in the mission of Wesley, we’d love for you to join us for 21 days of prayer from 5pm to 5:30pm (or another period that works with your schedule) beginning tomorrow, August 1, through August 21 (the day before classes start). If you’re on campus, we’ll begin our weekly prayer and communion service on Monday, August 6 at 5pm, and you’re invited to join us to spend time in prayer together.

Take it to the Next Level

If you’d like to add something extra to these 21 days of prayer, consider the Wesley Fast. This fast is based on the spiritual discipline advocated by the founder of Methodism, John Wesley, to fast from sundown on Thursday until 3pm on Friday. As a spiritual discipline, fasting allows us to refocus our dependence on God, and what better time to do that than the beginning of a new school year. If you’ve ever thought about trying fasting as a spiritual discipline, these 21 days would be a great opportunity to do so. For more about the Wesley Fast, click here.

Suggested Topics

If you’re looking for a place to start, here are some suggestions about things and groups to pray for in preparation for the coming year (scroll down for suggestions for both students and non-students):

For Parents, Alumni, and Other Non-Students

Students

In particular, you are invited to pray for those who are new to campus, including both freshmen and transfer students. For all students, though, we invite you to join us in praying that they will experience God’s presence and find a place to belong on campus during the coming year.

The Campus Community

The University of Alabama campus community includes faculty, staff, administrators, and others in addition to students. You are invited to join us in praying for their wisdom and discernment as they lead the campus in the year ahead.

Wesley’s Staff, Students, and Ministry

As a ministry, we covet your prayers for the year ahead that we would be effective in fulfilling our mission to be a place for all people to discover their God-given identity while fulfilling their God-ordained purpose. In particular, we invite you to pray for our ministry areas and our team of student interns and coordinators that lead them:

Executive Staff: Wade Langer and John Fleischauer
Pastoral Intern: John Austin Higginbotham
Worship Team: Logan Henderson, David Conour, and Ansley Weaver
Fellowship Team: Sam Donley and Hannah Alford
Discipleship Team: Ruth Hallstead
Outreach Team: Will Harper
Administration Team: Charlie Warren, Leann Locke, and Bryant Vickers
Communications Team: Amelia Volpe, Emeline Earman, and Jonathan Holle

Week of Welcome

Finally, we covet your prayers for Week of Welcome, which is August 19-25. This is the single most significant opportunity we have to connect with new students during the year, but it’s also an incredibly busy and tiring week for our team as we host daily events on top of the first days of class. Pray that students would find their way to and connect with us and that our team would find energy and enthusiasm beyond their own capacity as they welcome those students.

For Students

Those New to Campus

Pray for those who will be new to campus this year, whether freshmen who are away from home for the first time or transfer students who are coming in midway through their time in school. Pray that they would experience peace and excitement as they come to campus, and that they would find a place of community once they arrive.

Those Returning to Campus

Pray for all of the students who are returning to campus, including sophomores with a year under their belt, seniors preparing for the final year on campus, and everyone in between. Pray that they would experience new beginnings this year and would return to campus eager to connect with friends and get started with classes.

Your Department and Major

You know better than anyone the specific needs of those in your department and major, so pray for your classmates and the specific challenges that are unique to you.

Your Residence Hall/Apartment/Neighborhood

Whether you live on or off campus, pray for those in your residence hall, apartment complex, or neighborhood. Pray for their safety during the upcoming year, and that home would be a place where they belong and can find peace and calm throughout the year.

Faculty, Staff, and Administrators

Pray for those who lead the University including faculty, staff, and administrators. Pray for their wisdom and discernment as they lead and teach in the upcoming year.

Wesley

Finally, pray for Wesley: our staff, student leadership, ministry areas, and all that we’ll do in the year ahead. Pray that all we do would help students to discover their God-given identity while fulfilling their God-ordained purpose.

Activities Cancelled Due to Weather on 3/19

Due to the threat of severe weather and in keeping with our policy of following the university’s lead, all activities including Monday night prayer are cancelled today, March 19. Additionally, the Wesley building will close at 6:30pm.