A prayer book for the community

Worship grant to fund a book of prayers written by and for students, faculty and staff

A single, solitary room is found at the bottom of the Dinah E. Gore Bell Tower where one can find a private area for quiet reflection, meditation and prayer. And for the past six years, that room has also included a journal where prayers or thoughts can be written down and read by anybody looking to help or seeking inspiration.

Dean for Spiritual Life and Campus Minister Rev. Louisa Ward has made it a regular habit to visit the prayer room and thumb through the book to “keep tabs” on the health of her Campbell community and pray for those who ask for it. “Their prayers are surely addressed by God,” she says, “but if there are things I can be praying for, I feel like that’s why I’m here.”

Ward noticed on a recent visit that the book was on its last few pages, and a replacement was needed. But rather than toss the old pages aside to make way for the new, she saw value, historical importance and even inspiration in the old log. The pages provided a snapshot of the past six years — natural disasters, world events, presidential elections and a global pandemic were all represented in the written prayers. Others sought guidance in their academic pursuits, personal relationships and mental health.

The book was full of powerful messages and deeply personal pleas and testimonies.

“I think what the prayers in this book say about the last six years is that there’s nothing happening in this world that does not affect the members of our community and our campus. If it’s happening in this world, it’s happening here,” Ward says. “There is great love and joy, celebration and happiness. There’s profound grief, pain and hurt. It takes great courage to pray. And it certainly takes great courage to write your prayers down, knowing that anybody can read them.”

The end of the current iteration of the prayer book coincided with a need for the Office of Spiritual Life — Ward was working on submitting a grant proposal to the Calvin Institute for Christian Worship, and the book inspired the idea to create a new liturgy book written by the Campbell community for the Campbell community. In January, the Office announced it had received a Worshiping Communities Vital Worship Grant curated by The Calvin Institute, made possible through the support of the Lilly Endowment Inc.

The $25,000 grant will go toward a year-long project that will culminate with the book, says Rev. Zachary Parks, associate campus minister. It will fund a series of writing retreats and allow for workshops and other educational opportunities for anyone interested in learning and contributing to this project. The final, “living document” will speak to the “needs, confessions, rhythms and celebrations of the community,” Parks says.

“Our hope is to facilitate educational and formational opportunities that will bring together diverse voices and expressions of prayer,” he says. “We hope this book will address the needs of our community. We hope it’s a book that is true to our identity as a place of Christian higher education and the commitments we hold.”

Ward calls the future book “a resource” that she hopes will meet the needs of the Campbell community. The book will be written and produced by students, faculty and staff who will meet over the coming months to brainstorm and put words to paper. Ward says they have a good idea of some of the things they’d like to see, but their first task this spring is to talk to students and discuss their wants and needs.

“We want it to speak to the needs of our community in real time. What are the community’s most urgent needs; things that will always be present on a college campus? What prayers will be relevant to the college student? Relevant to our faculty?”

The end-of-year deadline is tied to the guidelines of the grant, so Ward, Parks and their team are moving quickly. When the book is complete, it will be available at Butler Chapel and in other areas on campus (the grant stipulates it cannot be sold in retail).

The final product, Ward hopes, will not only be a reflection of the strong faith of the Campbell community, but of the power and importance of prayer for everybody.

Six Years of Prayer

Campus Minister Rev. Louisa Ward and Associate Campus Minister Rev. Zachary Parks shared some of the prayers written over the past six years in the prayer book inside Butler Chapel. The invocations covered topics ranging from the pandemic to academics, mental health to physical health and family to personal relationships.

“Lord, please guide me as I embark on my college journey. Help me to grow closer to you and become who you are calling me to be. Help me to be a light to others. Bless me in a way that brings peace and love.”

“I’ve been sad for a really long time. I don’t understand it. I don’t know how to fix it. You know the specific people in my life. Let me feel your presence again.”

“In a few days time it will be Easter and your Son will rise. Amidst this virus, he will rise and protect us. God grant protection to those who are sick and those who work in health care. That they may find peace in difficult days.”

“Thank you for this campus and all those who attend it. Bless all who enter this place and grant us wisdom.”

“I am not a Christian, but do believe in the power of prayer.”

“I pray my life turns out the way it is destined to be.”


Billy Liggett Campbell Magazine Editor

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