Rain continues to fall through the night sky as another dreary Tuesday comes to an end. Inside the chapel, four women gather on plush, black couches, talking and laughing as they wait to see if more will come.
As the clock turns to 9:03 pm, they decide that this will be all for tonight and the meeting begins Sophomore Laura Schwartz, leader for the Prayer Team, starts the night off with the usual ritual: highs and lows of the week.
“Here are the rules,” Schwartz said. “You have to have a high. If you can’t think of a low, don’t push it.”
After a quick devotional, the ladies divide up prayer requests written on small index cards. The prayer will be done popcorn style, though Schwartz reassures the others that there is no pressure to say anything out loud.
The prayer requests range from concerns about stress to lost family members to getting breakfast pizza in the dining hall, sophomore Katelyn Luze said.
“I don’t want people to not request something to pray for because they think it’s ridiculous and we won’t pray for it, because we will,” Luze said. “No prayer is stupid, too big or too small.”
Prayer requests are taken from sheets hung in the campus bathrooms as well as prayer sheets that are put in the offering plates during Sunday chapel services. Overall, the response has been positive.
Abby Giambattista, a sophomore who joined the prayer team just a few weeks ago, said she has already heard feedback ranging anywhere from “Wait, those really get prayed for?” to “Oh, that’s really cool you guys do that!”
While the prayer team is a relatively new and small club (this year marks its third in existence), members already feel like they are having an impact on the Augustana community.
“I felt like it was time to sew into the greater Augustana community the best way I know how—by praying for them,” Giambattista said. “I love that our prayer team takes time to seriously consider each need shared with the group, it is a true testament to what God’s love looks like.”
As the women start to pray, the atmosphere immediately changes from one of friendship and laughter to intense emotion and sincerity.
At times there is a voice praying, almost pleading, for the concerns of a stranger. Other times, the silence stretches for what seems like hours. Still, eyes remained closed in concentration and palms turned up towards the heavens. While one person prays, whispers of “yes Jesus, yes God” can be heard from others in the room. The intimacy felt in the room is something the team thrives on.
“I am so unconcerned with the numbers,” Schwartz said. “The people who are coming are the people God wants to be there.”
The other members echoed Schwartz’s sentiment.
“Prayer team is a really awesome community [for those] who want a chance to quiet their heart with the busyness of their week and also get to know some other Christians,” sophomore Gloria McKenney said.
“There’s just something about praying with other people that makes you feel like a stronger person too,” Giambattista said.
After all the requests have been prayed over, the women deposit the cards in a vase that sits on the coffee table. Once the vase gets full, the papers inside are set on fire.
While the origin of the tradition is unknown, it has taken many forms over the years—from small fireplaces to bonfires complete with camp songs at Pastor Anne’s house.
“I think it’s about letting go of our worries and giving everything up to God,” Schwartz said. “Plus, who doesn’t love singing around a campfire?”
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