Student-led prayer day continues strong run
While exact numbers have not been tabulated of those who gathered to pray, See You at the Pole (SYATP) has continued to grow since its 1990 birth with a handful of students in Texas. Students gathered in prayer at 7 a.m. local time around flag poles and other locations at public and private schools in the U.S. and foreign countries, event promoters said.
"It appears that every state had participants, and we have multiple reports so far from South Korea, Australia, Philippines, Canada, and the Dominican Republic outside this country," Doug Clark, national field director of event promoter National Network of Youth, told Baptist Press. "In 25 years since SYATP was first done nationally, 52 countries have participated one or more times."
United is this year's theme, drawn from Acts 1:14 and focused on encouraging "students at the beginning of the school year to do the first, best thing to reach out to their peers -- by praying for them," said Daryl Nuss, National Network of Youth executive director.
As the Southern Baptist Convention focuses the next great awakening, Clark agreed prayer among students could certainly spur revival.
"Making prayer the first thing we encourage students to do as they reach out to their schools is consistent with how God has ignited times of awakening in the past, with young people at the vanguard of revivals, committing to extraordinary prayer," Clark said. "We don't know if spiritual awakening is on God's timetable for our nation right now, but we must do what always precipitates revival: pray. Scriptures like 2 Chronicles 7:14 are particularly relevant for our culture at this point in our history."
This marks the third year the event was held in conjunction with Global Week of Student Prayer, Sept. 20–26, allowing more student participation and accommodating diverse school schedules in the U.S. and other countries.
"It seems clear to us that God is not finished with See You at the Pole yet, but is still calling students by His Spirit to do the best, first thing they can do to reach out to their peers by praying for them," Clark said. "The 'gut feeling' of those of us who have been involved with SYATP for 25 years is that there is a growing interest by younger youth leaders to call their students to pray, and use SYATP specifically as a way to launch that on their campuses. We are encouraged."
There were nearly 20,000 posts using #syatp on Instagram, and related Facebook and Twitter accounts were also active, Clark said. Participants range in age groups from early childhood to senior adults, with the bulk of participants in middle and high school. Each year, more and more elementary students participate, he said.
"I am always amazed at the courage of students who pray alone," Clark said. "You can see photos of some of them on the Facebook page."
The annual SYATP event grew out of a 1990 DiscipleNow weekend, when a small group of students prayed at flagpoles at different schools on a Saturday night. Inspired by the small event, youth leaders across Texas organized SYATP in 1990 and drew 45,000 students to prayer meetings in four states. By the next year, an estimated 1 million students gathered in prayer at flagpoles across the nation, according to the SYATP website.
The event does not violate laws against prayer in schools, as all prayer is student-led, before school hours and outside of any school building, according to the SYATP website. But the site encourages students to pray off campus if school administrators object to the event.