"For Those Who Are Passionate About Reaching The Younger Generation"

Bending Your Knees on Campus

Part 1

Barry St. Clair Keith Naylor

"You mean prayer can really make a difference?"

It was 5:26 A.M. Friday. Cold. Dark. Not a sound except my breathing. I sat in my car facing the high school. Stay awake! Keep warm! To amuse myself I blew smoke rings with my breath, fogging my windshield. After my third game of solitary tic-tac-toe on my windshield (the rubber match), a pair of headlights rounded the corner of the school and headed toward my car. As it pulled closer, I said to myself, I've never seen headlights float in midair. The darkness and my foggy windshield gave the car the appearance of being suspended in space. Then out stepped my friend Johnny, the other youth leader on campus. I felt a surge of energy. Now I could begin my most important appointment of the week. For one year we had come to the high school to walk around it and to pray for God to move on the campus. Out of frustration and failure we had learned that just going to the campus wasn't getting the job done, no matter how much time we spent, or how well we planned our attack, or how many leaders helped us. We had come to pray because we had learned that success on that campus was only a bent knee away!

John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim's Progress and a powerful man of prayer, said, "You can do more than pray after you've prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed."(1)

A person who prays has learned that success in any endeavor comes only from the hand of God upon it. That's why the psalmist wrote: "Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain" (Psalm 127:1). The Apostle Paul pressed the same point this way: "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God, made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow" (1 Corinthians 3:6,7).

"You can do more than pray after you've prayed,
but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed."
John Bunyan

For God to work on a campus, youth workers must commit to sacrificial prayer. J. Edwin Orr calls it "extraordinary prayer." In his message "The Role of Prayer in Spiritual Awakening" Orr explains:

What do we mean by extraordinary prayer? We share in ordinary prayer in regular worship services, before meals and the like. But when people are found getting up at six in the morning to pray, or having a half night of prayer until midnight, or giving up their lunch time to pray at a noonday prayer meeting, that is extraordinary prayer.(2)

In the context of those comments, Dr. Orr paints a picture of the youth culture in the wake of the American Revolution. He quotes the observations of Lyman Beecher, who described a typical campus in 1795:

College was in a most ungodly state. The college church was almost extinct. Most of the students were skeptical and rowdies were plenty. Wine and liquors were kept in many rooms; intemperance, profanity, gambling and licentiousness were common . . . most of the class before me were infidels and called each other Voltaire, Rousseau, . . . etc?(3)

Dr. Orr then goes on to explain how widespread this problem was:

What was true at Yale in New Haven was true at Princeton in New Jersey, there being in one year no more than two students who professed religion, only five or six who scrupled the use of profane language in common conversation-and in the "filthy speech" movement the profanity sometimes was of a very shocking kind.

So far as religion was concerned, the colleges were the seed-beds of infidelity. The University of Pennsylvania, Transylvania College, Columbia College in South Carolina, and others had influential "free-thinkers" on their faculties. An anti-Church play was featured at Dartmouth. At Yale and Princeton, as at William and Mary, the student bodies were overwhelmingly skeptical, if not infidel. At Bowdoin, as at Yale, the number of believers was counted on one hand.

During the last decade of the eighteenth century, the typical Harvard student was atheist Students at Williams College conducted a mock celebration of Holy Communion. When the Dean at Princeton opened the chapel Bible to read, a pack of playing cards fell out, some radical having cut a rectangle out of each page to fit the pack. Christians were so unpopular that they met in secret and kept their minutes in code. The radical leader of deist students led a mob in burning the Bible of a Raritan valley Presbyterian church. Students disrupted worship services with both profanity and sputum They burned down buildings; and they forced the resignation of college presidents.

Young Christians had their backs to the wall.(4)

We live in a very similar environment today, as we learned from chapter one. Safely we can say that a definite numbness, blind apathy, and even outright rebellion exist toward the things of God. If ever we needed prayer, we need it now. In light of that need, let's walk through the famous passage in 2 Chronicles 7:14 to get a fresh glimpse of the way to bend our knees for the younger generation.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.


Humility stands as the most important quality of a Christian leader. That's because humility drives a person to be totally dependent on God for everything, no matter how big or small. The writer of Chronicles calls on people to "humble themselves." That humble attitude leads a person to pray.
Charles Spurgeon made this assessment: "Humility is to make a right estimate of one's self."(5)

"Humility is to make a right estimate of one's self."
Charles Spurgeon

A. W. Tozer explained what that right estimate was.

The meek man is not a human mouse inflicted with a sense of his own inferiority. Rather he may in his moral life be as bold as a lion and as strong as Samson; but he has stopped being fooled by himself He has accepted God's estimate about his own life. He knows he is as weak and helpless as God declared him to be. But paradoxically he knows at the same time that he is in the sight of God more important than angels. In himself nothing, in God everything. That is his motto.(6)

And that is humility.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9, the Apostle Paul describes how humility works. "But [God] said to me, `My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." God works through the things God controls. And God controls lives totally subjected to Him.

That reality dawned on me while talking to a friend who had an addiction to cocaine. He accepted Christ five years ago. For those five years he knew drugs were wrong. With all of his heart he wanted to live for Christ, but he had no strength to do so. He tried several different ways to quit. He promised God several times he would never do drugs anymore. But he failed time and time again. As we talked, he spoke with desperation. I want so badly to be free. I want so badly to be clean. I want to show God that I can do it, to prove to him that I do love Him. But I know I can't do it I've come to realize that it is impossible for me to quit I just want to give up.

Out of desperation he had placed himself in exactly the right position total, humble dependence.

And that's exactly where God wants us. We must realize that God ultimately does the work. God does not need us, but we need God. When we realize this, we will move quickly into His presence, fall on our faces, and pray with desperation.

Leonard Ravenhill, the well-known author and speaker on revival, explains the importance of desperate prayer:

Now I say very often . . . that God doesn't answer prayer. He answers desperate prayer! Your prayer life denotes how much you depend on your own ability and how much you really believe in your heart when you sing, "Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to the cross I cling.. ." The more self confidence you have, the less you pray. The less self-confidence you have the more you have to pray.(7)

Are you desperate to pray? Do you still depend on your own strength and abilities to change the lives of students? Or are you desperately seeking God to do His work on the campus? A man who humbly depends on God prays desperately.


A humble attitude, then, will drive us to pray (2 Chronicles 7:14). The Hebrew word for pray means to intercede for, to stand in the gap on behalf of another person. This word has two emphases: (1) meeting with God, and (2) meeting with God on behalf of someone else. A person praying in this way carries a burden, a strong concern manifested by persistently meeting with the One who can do something to help.
Only this "strong burden" in prayer will ensure your success in seeing lives change on the campus. If the Good News of Jesus Christ is going to impact the campus, it will happen because you consistently are coming to the Lord on the students' behalf.
Dr. Paul Yonggi Cho, the pastor of the largest church in the world, urges us to pray heartily.

No people has ever given more for the preaching of the gospel than the people from the United States of America. No country has ever sacrificed its own to save others from the oppression of tyranny more than the American people.

Why, then, is there not a nationwide revival? The answer is a lack of prayer.8

"Why, then, is there not a nationwide revival?
The answer is a lack of prayer."
Paul Cho

To illustrate that point, last year we were experiencing one of the driest times in our ministry in terms of people coming to know the Lord. In addition, we had seen many converts turn away from their faith. After several months, the Lord impressed on me the need to begin a prayer meeting each week to ask God to send His Spirit to that high school. (I don't know why I always wait until the last minute to do this!) We did not change our normal agenda except to add intense, extraordinary prayer. Within a brief time, I could account for 18 decisions for Jesus Christ. Most significantly, 17 of those students have stayed strong in their faith over the long haul.

It's not too difficult to generate programs and even gather hundreds of kids. But the real measure of a ministry is how many come out the other end having experienced life change in Jesus Christ The goal should be to produce life-changers for the kingdom of God. Your first major step to achieving that kind of life-changing success is only a bent knee away.

If you are looking for some practical ways to get started, try these ideas:

1. Set a Time to Pray

Rearrange your schedule to find a block of time or several smaller blocks every week when you can pray for your students. Put it on your schedule and determine not to move it. Experience says that if you change the time, prayer will slide right out of your schedule. Try to make it early in the morning before most activity starts.

To solidify your commitment to do this, look at your schedule now and fill in the time and day here.

I commit to pray _________ (day) at ___________(time).

2. Determine a Location for Prayer

Pray where the action is. I always go right to the front door of the school. Obviously you have to get there early in order not to get trampled by the kids. Determine where the best place to meet is, then commit to be there.

I commit to pray at __________ (location).

3. Ask Others to Pray

Find two other people who have a heart for students to pray with you. It will work best if all of you have a concern for the same campus. Possibilities include someone in your Leadership Family or a youth leader at another church, preferably even someone from another denomination. Praying with someone else will keep you accountable. Something about a friend waiting in the dark by himself tends to motivate you to get out of bed.

Also, praying with two others fits beautifully into a strategy of mobilizing your students to pray called "TEAM 3." Three Christians get together to pray three times week, each one for three of their non-Christian friends. (We will discuss this strategy thoroughly later in the book.) Write down the names of the other two people with whom you will pray.

I will ask (1) __________________________________ and (2) ______________________________ to pray with me.

4. Do Not Compromise Your Time to Pray

Many demands will compete for your time. Satan will try to derail you. Don't let him. Repeat the following line as a prayer of your commitment to intercede for your kids.

Lord Jesus, with Your help, I will intercede for young people!



Dr. Barry St. Clair is founder and director of Reach Out Youth Solutions, which equips youth workers and young people for strategic ministry through the church around the world. He has worked with youth leaders and young people for over 30 years in evangelism and discipleship and has authored numerous books, including the Moving Toward Maturity series.

At the time Keith Naylor co-wrote the book, he traveled and spoke for Reach Out Youth Solutions, served as youth pastor of Christ Community Church in Atlanta, Georgia, and had ministered on public school campuses for fourteen years. His strength lies in developing relationships with unchurched students and motivating Christian students to reach their friends. At one time, he traveled around the world playing basketball with Athletes in Action.


These two articles comprise chapter three of Penetrating the Campus, by Barry St. Clair and Keith Naylor, published by Victor Books. Currently out of print, it is used here by permission of Barry St. Clair.

Other Resources on Prayer

Two books by Barry St. Clair, An Awesome Way to Pray and its accompanying Leaders Guide help students move from occasional prayer to consistent prayer, spend daily time with Jesus, implement the Prayer Triplets strategy and engage lost friends in conversations about Christ. Click here to order.