Week of Prayer in the Church
A. V. OLSON: Vice-President, General Conference
Early in the history of the Advent Movement our leaders introduced the idea of a Week of Prayer to be conducted in all our churches on a given date toward the end of the year. The plan brought so much spiritual help and blessing to the churches and to the cause of God that it was repeated year after year. Soon the practice became an established fact among us. In every land and clime where our work is now established around the world our churches observe the annual Week of Prayer.
Just as ancient Israel had certain periods every year when the entire nation was to en gage in earnestly seeking the Lord, so modern Israel, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, has adopted the plan of an annual Week of Prayer, when the church universal may unitedly seek the Lord. If the people of God in ages past needed such occasions for their spiritual refreshing, we upon whom the ends of the world have come surely need them also.
We are living in dangerous times—in times that try men's souls. Satan knows that his days are numbered, and he has come down to us in great fury. He hates the remnant church, and is determined to destroy it. To accomplish his purpose, he will employ every means at his command. Our only safety lies in keeping close to one another and close to God. We need to press together. Unitedly we must press our petitions to the throne of grace. "None but divine power," we are told, "can stay the arrogance of Satan united with evil men; but in the hour of the church's greatest danger most fervent prayer will be offered in her behalf by the faithful remnant, and God will hear and answer."—Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 524.
Now more than ever the church should heed the divine admonition: "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." Heb. 10:25. This applies to the services of the Week of Prayer as well as to the regular services of the church throughout the year.
When properly conducted, the services of the Week of Prayer can be of inestimable value in fostering the spiritual life of the church. They can serve to revive drooping spirits, fan the smoking flax into a bright flame, reclaim back sliders, and bring added hope and courage into the most ardent souls. These services also tend to deepen the interest of the church in our great mission program and to increase its gifts for the finishing of the work at home and abroad.
Our schools throughout the world have found the Week of Prayer so helpful in promoting the spiritual interests of the school family that they have instituted an additional Week of Prayer in the spring of the year, usually known as the spring Week of Prayer or, more recently, MV Week.
The success of the Week of Prayer depends to a very large degree upon the workers and church officers. If they manifest little or no interest in the services, no great blessing can result from them. On the other hand, if they will take time to plan prayerfully and carefully for these meetings, and by the help of God will do all in their power to enlist the cooperation of old and young, the week can be made a grand success. The one who presents the reading must have his own soul on fire with the subject. He must not, however, take so much time for reading and commenting that there remains little or no time for prayer and testimonies. We must always bear in mind that the primary purpose of the Week of Prayer is to afford an opportunity for the members of the church to engage in seasons of earnest prayer and supplication.
God grant that every minister and mission worker the world around may, under the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, do his very best to make the Week of Prayer this year all that God wants it to be for His people.
Missionary Volunteer Week of Prayer
THEODORE LUCAS: Associate Secretary, General Conference Missionary Volunteer Department
Missionary Volunteer Week has an interesting history. Our General Conference leaders were thinking of the youth of the remnant church away back on July 6, 1906, when they approved the plan of having a day especially for youth.
A year later the Young People's Department of Missionary Volunteers was organized. As we look into the old records we find in the years that followed there was a "floating" Young People's Day. One year it would be in May, and the next it might be in January. In fact, it looked for a while as if the first Sabbath in January might through precedent become Missionary Volunteer Day. The General Conference minutes of October 13, 1916, reveal that Missionary Volunteer Day had by that time come to be accepted as the name of the day for our young people.
However, the big news came during the Autumn Council of 1920, which was held in Indianapolis. There it was recommended that each union conference arrange for a Missionary Volunteer Week. This was to be a time when all workers were to give special attention to the salvation of young people. It was to coincide with the spring Weeks of Prayer in our schools, which perhaps accounts for the choosing of the month of March as the best time for this most important event for our youth. Since then Missionary Volunteer Day and Week have been assigned annually by General Conference action to the month of March. This seems to be the best time for everyone for MV Week.
It is interesting to thumb through the March Extra of the Church Officers' Gazette for 1922. This is the first appearance of studies for Missionary Volunteer Week. The date was March 17-25. There we find a program by M. E. Kern, the very first MV secretary for the General Conference, and then there are other articles by C. A. Russell, Mrs. Harriet Holt, and Ellen G. White, pioneers in the youth work of our church.
Through the years the church has been careful to provide for its young people MV Week material by the best writers available. The attention given our youth during MV Week has rallied and held them to the church. It has become a great evangelistic opportunity. It is a time when the church dedicates itself anew to the youth and their special interests.
For some years now the records have been kept of the results of MV Week. It is difficult to secure complete figures. However, the 1951 record was the largest up to that time: 2,517 young people joined baptismal classes, 1,226 were baptized, making a total of 3,743 converted.
Why Have a Youth Week?
Young people of today live in a complex and confused world. Their hearts are troubled by scores of allurements that did not reach their grandparents, at least not in their youthful days. The drive-in theater, the automobile, the radio, the television, and their accompanying interests and diversions present a tangled skein of good and evil that is perplexing even to those of experience and maturity.
Also it is hard to maintain one's principles and yet find work among the commercial corporations of today. There are many influences in the land that lead the young to place light regard upon religious convictions, especially if these convictions stand in the way of business opportunity.
Two brief messages from the Spirit of prophecy are of special portent. They point out that youth need help to meet the modernity of life.
"Men and women of experience should understand that this is a time of especial danger for the young. Temptations surround them on every hand; and while it is easy work to float with the current, the strongest effort is required to press against the tide of evil. It is Satan's studied effort to secure the youth in sin, for then he is more sure of the man. The enemy of souls is filled with intense hatred against every endeavor to influence the youth in the right direction."—Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 421.
"We are living in an unfortunate age for children. A heavy current is setting downward to perdition, and more than childhood's experience and strength is needed to press against this current and not be borne down by it."—Ibid., vol. 1, p. 397.
Sabbath, March 14, is.to be MV Day in 1953. This is a time when the burden of saving our youth is placed upon every member of the church, young and old. It must be a time for strong spiritual appeals and renewed consecration. This is an occasion when fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, realign their steps as they turn their faces toward the kingdom together. This is youth's day. The experience of this day should lead the whole church into deeper consecration and into more earnest efforts for saving our young people.
The Missionary Volunteer Society is organized for evangelism. That is the only reason for its existence. Young people today must be at work to fulfill their responsibility in warning other youth. Adventist youth must understand the church and its purpose and keep step. Telling the good news can be done in many ways. Missionary Volunteer Week is one of the great opportunities of the year for Share Your Faith evangelism. This is the time to take advantage of the MV Week of the year.
There are many youth among us who have passed the peak age of decision and are still un decided for Christ and the church. Others having once made the decision have drifted into worldly ways. These need special effort on the part of the church to win them and establish them in Christian experience. Too often it is assumed that a youth is growing up into the church, when suddenly a break comes or an indifferent attitude is manifested. Nothing can be taken for granted in the experience of young people. The utmost vigilance and care is required on the part of those of us who are older to win them to Christ and instruct them in the church.
What Is MV Week?
Missionary Volunteer Week is a series of meetings adapted especially for the purpose of winning the careless and indifferent among the young and of deepening the spiritual experience of all. It is an awakening of the church to its responsibility to the youth. Its purpose is to reveal the place of the youth in the over-all program of the church. It is to spotlight the Share Your Faith responsibilities that youth have to their church and that the church has to its youth. It is to motivate Missionary Volunteers everywhere into action and to provide them with an experience that demonstrates the strength and unity of Christian fellowship.
The conference and church officers should take the initiative in making arrangements for the leadership. The entire church membership should be enlisted in the effort. It is not a young people's society affair alone, but rather a special week in which the entire church seeks to save its young people and build them up in the things of God.
This week presents the following threefold purpose, and to achieve best results, all three should be emphasized:
1. Creation of a greater interest and deeper feeling of tenderness and sympathy on the part of the church for its young people.
2. Development of soul-winning vision and power among the youth and their enlistment in the activities and responsibilities of the church.
3. Winning of young people to make a definite decision for Christ, leading them to experience a fuller and more lasting conversion.
Ten hints are worth keeping before us as we plan to win young people to Christ during MV Week:
1. If possible hold a service each day. In the churches where it is impossible to meet daily, let the leaders plan for the youth to meet in groups at their homes.
2. Attract the youth to the church or place of meeting. Have interesting announcements and good posters advertising the meetings. The enlistment of the converted in bringing the care less and indifferent to the meetings is helpful. Youth attract other youth, but these methods will fail unless the meetings are well planned and carried on in a vitally interesting manner.
3. Make the meetings and all the interviews of the week definitely evangelistic.
4. Lead youth to make a decision by personal visits, by prayer in private and in prayer bands, and by public consecration meetings, encouraging them individually and as a group to keep no reserve.
5. During MV Week and afterward help the youth to find their places in the work of the church. Some lose the experience they have gained because of neglect. In order to grow in grace one must live a life of meditation, Bible study, prayer, and service.
6. Urge that whoever takes any leading part in the meetings be thoroughly prepared. Give the messages as talks if possible. The results will be in proportion to the prayer and preparation.
7. Endeavor to make the last Friday night or Sabbath morning service of the week a very earnest spiritual meeting in which old and young renew their consecration. Give opportunity for the expression of their decisions.
8. Organize a baptismal class. Someone should conduct the class who understands youth and has a thorough knowledge of the Advent message. Arrangements should be made with the pastor, the district leader, or the MV secretary of the conference to hold a baptism when the candidates are ready.
9. Plan definitely for follow-up work for those who have made decisions and for those who as yet may not have yielded. Much may be lost if the burden of the effort is dropped at the end of the week. Encourage the youth to make such devotional studies as the Morning Watch and the Bible Year part of their daily Christian living. Help young people to enter upon a definite plan of sharing their faith, so that they may experience the new joy that comes through service.
10. In the work of the week and the follow-up work it is well to make use of the literature provided especially for work with young people. The following leaflets will prove helpful:
MV Leaflet 19—The Morning Watch
22—God's Promise and Mine
24—An Hour With Christ
26—I Will Be a Christian Sometime
27—A Gilt-edged Partnership
28—Victory in Christ
33—You Are What You Read
37—How Shall I Choose My Calling?
The studies for 1953 have been prepared by Elder and Mrs. A. W. Peterson, long-time leaders in our Missionary Volunteer work. Elder Peterson was the MV secretary for the General Conference for years and is now the MV secretary for the Australasian Division. Mrs. Peterson has written several books, one of which was selected as a Senior Reading Course book.
The material for MV Week is prepared on the Senior and Junior levels and will appear in the MV Week Special of the MV Program Kit. This number of the MV Program Kit is devoted entirely to the Young People's Missionary Volunteer Week of Prayer, March 14-21, 1953. Copies may be secured from the local Missionary Volunteer secretaries.
It is hoped that the coming MV Week of Prayer will help us win and hold and save the youth of the remnant church to the great task of finishing the work in all the world.
The College Week of Prayer
GEORGE E. VANDEMAN: Associate Secretary, General Conference Ministerial Association
Not one word need be said in defense of the college Week of Prayer. The semi- yearly demonstration of its saving and unifying influence in our centers of training is eloquent testimony that this plan is vital to the sustained spiritual life of our youth.
The thoughtful attention given to planning these weeks by administrative councils and college presidents is indicative also. I would here like to express my confidence in the excellent spiritual leadership our college presidents are giving. I have worked with practically all of them in weeks of devotion throughout North America and in several overseas colleges. Under no circumstances can these men be measured quite so well spiritually as under the pressure of these weeks. Their genuine interest in the spiritual welfare of the students labels them as soul winners in the truest sense of the term.
The college Week of Prayer poses problems and opportunities offered by no other setting. First of all, it must be remembered that the Week of Prayer is a familiar institution to most students, with the possible exception of those newly come from the public school system. On the whole the student body knows what to expect in early autumn and midspring. Many of these youth will wait eagerly to receive a spiritual refreshing. Some reveal little interest outwardly, yet secretly hope that the help they need will be found before the week passes. Others will freely express their intentions to hold themselves aloof from the influence, and adamantly refuse to cooperate with the Week of Prayer planning. Yet others not positively on the Lord's side will approach the week indifferently, but with no barriers to be overcome. Many conscientious youth will long for specific help on some inner conflict or defeat in the realm of secret sins. Couples, and of this group there are many, especially since the war years, face problems peculiar to youth who seek an education while supporting and rearing a family. In a survey of the campus the faculty and community groups cannot be overlooked if the revival is to be lasting. All can be helped. And to plan and pray and work for anything less would leave many a troubled heart and worried soul floundering in deeper discouragement.
Recognizing Spiritual Progress
Keeping all these groups in mind will guard the worker from a limited approach and mistakes frequently made in a week of devotion. One all too familiar weakness is that of extending confused appeals for surrender. The worker at times may unthinkingly imply that little or no progress has been made heretofore in the lives of his listeners. Such an impression is unfortunate, for it leads the growing soul to question the validity of his past consecration. Does he need to come to Christ? True, he may have problems yet to be solved, and much growth ahead, to be sure, but has he not already made a life decision? And is not Christ very precious to him? It would lessen the confusion in many youthful minds if each worker would recognize that God has worked in the past and that former Weeks of Prayer and experiences of revival have done their appointed work.
Youth need to see their first committal as a decisive break with the past, a burning of the bridges behind them, and then think of future decisions as confirmations, as advanced steps. Our task is to encourage them to go on to perfection. Thank God, there is opportunity for the repentant soul to begin over again and again, if need be, if there has been a state of backsliding. But to infer that all need to begin over again at each consecration service is destructive to clear ideas of progress, to say the least.
To the average Christian it is not so much an acceptance of Christ—he feels he has done this already. It calls rather for a deeper surrender and an acceptance of additional spiritual light. To the backslider and worldly, careless youth definite help must be given him to return and accept, but let us not group all into one category and then wonder about results.
The reaction of a student body depends, aside from the power of the Spirit, largely on the attitude of the speaker. Youth can tell instantly whether or not the speaker loves them and believes in them. The average young person longs to be understood and appreciated for what he is and what he has attempted for God. He will turn his little world upside down for the man who believes in him. What a potential to tap in leading him to the kingdom! The truism, "Nag people and they sag; believe in people and they bloom," can well apply to one's talks during a Week of Prayer. The Christocentric, positive, and instructive approach will win where a negative, legal approach will fail. God through the Holy Spirit seeks the youth, but His work is either helped or delayed by what we say and the way we say it.
The Practical Approach a Primary Essential
Another vital factor in reaching minds in a Week of Prayer setting is to translate the terms of theology into the language of the listener. Sublime and meaningful as the concepts of truth may be to the practiced theological mind, they will awaken little response if just repeated throughout the sermon as a matter of form or established denominational phraseology.
Now, a word about subject matter. The insistent demand of modern youth when approached by religion is: How? how? how? When told to get ready to meet Jesus they ask, How? When urged to surrender they ask, How? They have been told to be good, but their understandable query is, How? This plea should drive every worker to prepare practical, down-to-earth, basic, yet interesting Spirit-filled messages that actually come to grips with life and youth's inner needs.
The subject matter might well be varied. One could follow a line of thought or a certain type of service through the morning chapel hours and a different approach throughout the evenings. The writer seldom follows this plan, however, for no matter how well organized it may seem, there is danger of failure to reach a large cross section of the campus family with your full message. The reason is obvious. Work schedules off the campus prevent some from attending, and students living at a distance find it impossible to attend in the evening. Then the wives of students and faculty families will usually attend in the evening and not in the morning. Unless the presentations are varied, the help will be limited to one type of appeal. The evening services, as well as the morning hours, should contain a complete message for that group, and the two should be so vitally related that both dormitory and resident students will be able to catch the spirit of the week as a whole.
The last point is vital. In studying the reaction of college students to the Week of Prayer, I have felt impressed to arrange my subjects to bring about a crisis in midweek rather than wait until Friday morning or Friday night. However substantial your messages may have been, if major decisions are not made until Friday, the student is left in a state of newborn experience on the verge of your leaving. I have felt that this late crisis was one reason why genuine decisions and victories have ofttimes failed to bear fruit after the week closed. The trouble might well have been the inability of the speaker to give the much-needed help after the decision, before leaving the campus. Would it not be better to lead the youth into renewed consecration and victory about Wednesday morning, for instance, and then build into their lives the necessary instruction and help needed for consistent and stable growth during the remainder of the week, with Friday night reserved for a praise service? When this plan is followed, the last Sabbath morning service is not just a climax to a mountaintop experience, to be followed by a possible letdown. Rather, it can be a substantial seal to the good accomplished and an encouraging farewell message.
Naturally, the major responsibility during the week will be counseling. Happy the man who needs to do little urging, to fill the counseling hour! If students come en masse, it is because under God he has reached their hearts and they have understood him to be one who has solved his own problems; hence, they come to him to find the secret.
Week of Prayer in the Academy
ANDREW C. FEARING: President, Nevada-Utah Conference
No two of us would accomplish a given task in an identical way. Our methods differ even as we vary in thought and personality. It would be unwise for one of us to endeavor to pull a load in another's harness; likely as not, it would be out of balance. The men chosen to guide the Weeks of Prayer in our academies and colleges are usually youth leaders, evangelists, pastors, or administrators of proved abilities. They are men with a variety of talents, but God uses them all. Each of us may, however, profit by studying another's methods.
We who have had this great privilege of working with youth find that the teen-age mind in our academies is intelligent and responsive. I endeavor to talk to them even as I would to a college-trained group. Our adolescents, it seems to me, like to be given firm, unshakable reasons for their faith. There is no spiritual depth to which they are not willing to go if led there simply and clearly.
Several weeks before coming to the school I like to have my program of subjects, titles, theme songs, hymns to fit the subjects, Scripture readings, plans, et cetera, arranged. This outline is sent to the school in advance. In the outline I leave space for the special music, opening and closing prayer, and so forth. The school director of the program and his committee will, of course, fill in these places with names of the local people to fit the occasion.
I often suggest that I would appreciate having the youth take a major part in the services. This does much to tie the students to the daily program. It is well that the youth, with a faculty representative, form a music committee for all the meetings. Likewise a student committee should be chosen for prayer band accomplishments. It has been a great joy to me to witness the efficient leadership and governing ability of these student committees.
A write-up of plans for the week should be sent to the school paper. The editors seem to appreciate advance news of the meetings, giving attractive subject titles. It is well to arouse an interest in the Week of Prayer program even as an evangelist would for a major evangelistic campaign.
One may also suggest to the school a general theme, motto, and theme song. For example, I have used the general theme, "Things Unshakable" (Heb. 12:27); the motto, "My Life for Christ" (the school might have the motto painted and placed in front of the chapel); and the theme song, "Not I, but Christ," sung from memory (first stanza only, Church Hymnal, No. 271).
Friday evening before the first service the minister who is to be in charge of the Week of Prayer services is usually invited to meet with the faculty for their prayer band and for counsel. At this time I express my desire to cooper ate with the teachers in their plans for a successful week. Their suggestions are invited. I am anxious to know their problems, that I may do what I can tactfully, directed by the Holy Spirit, to help in a practical way during the coming week.
At times I have used the question box for inquiries from the students. There will be no difficulty in securing questions; however, I sometimes make a list of the most important problems as the youth come to me for counseling. Thus I can inject into the question box many items of value that can be answered quickly and helpfully for the whole student body. I have at times taken an entire evening to answer these questions; yet, in recent years, I have with success injected a number of these questions and answers into the preliminary program during the song service.
The school arranges a room for counseling. It is wise to post definite hours when the Week of Prayer speaker will be available; for example, the time from the close of chapel until noon, then from one-thirty to five-thirty in the afternoon, and from the close of the evening service until ———. This gives the morning time before the chapel period for sermon study, and the rest of the day to the students. It is a full program, to be sure, but from Monday on one will need all this time and more to accomplish all the personal visiting desired by the students. This personal work is very important.
Academy youth like to sing; therefore we do much singing. A minister is fortunate if he has a good song leader, and the two work in harmony as a team. The music department of the school is always cooperative in this. There may be times when a man wishes to direct his own singing. Choose youth songs and choruses. Have several that you use again and again that you and the students sing from memory. There are many good spiritual messages in song, rich in beauty, melody, and inspiration. Choose carefully, avoiding the cheap and questionable so- called religious music.
One may have the song period come first, as in an evangelistic meeting, closing with the theme song, which becomes the beginning of the main body of the service. This is followed by prayer, announcements, special music, and then the spoken message. In this way one avoids the "our opening hymn will be" type of service. True, this seems rather informal, and yet in its dignified simplicity it carries the spirit and message of the song service into the spoken word. It lifts the format of the program out of the regular chapel form and allows the week of meetings to be a little different from the chapel services.
Another form of service is often used, equally as simple and preferred by some administrators. All those designated to be on the platform come in as the opening theme song is sung, after which are a short Scripture reading, prayer, and announcements. Then comes the singing, with vocal and instrumental specials woven throughout the hymns, followed by the message.
Small prayer bands are very essential to the spiritual success of the week. Student and faculty leaders of the bands should be called together once a day for a brief period. Sometimes the period of fifteen minutes before school opens in the morning can be used for this leaders' council time. The time right after the evening meeting has also been used successfully. A seed thought or two are suggested for the use of the leaders that day. Questions and problems can be brought before the group, and counsel given. Special needs are considered of individuals for whom we should especially pray. Many a youth leader has gone from a group like this to tact fully encourage a missing member of his band to share with the group in prayer and Christian victory.
A series of talks can be formed around many profitable lines of thought; for instance, the Ten Commandments, Bible characters, steps to Christ, paths to successful living, believing our beliefs, et cetera. I shall choose for an example one of the programs I have used a number of times.
The theme of this week is "Things Unshakable." The purpose is to present the plan of salvation and our beliefs in a practical way to appeal to thinking youthful minds. In this one week I try to encompass the whole of our message and standards.
Friday Evening: This first evening is of vital importance. The message should set forth the keynote of thought and purpose for the week to come. I usually take this first service to in spire a great Share Your Faith endeavor for the week—a youth-for-youth challenge. Among the subjects I use is one entitled "Four for One." It is based around the story of the men who consolidated, cooperated, combined to bring one man to Christ. (Luke 5:16-20.) I explain that most individuals are led to the Saviour by the simple, unpretentious, quiet method of the apostle Andrew. At this point I give illustrations of what youth in other schools have accomplished in encouraging their roommates and chums to make right choices. However, there are perhaps those of their friends who need more than the commonplace, ordinary method. It will take the grouping of several, perhaps four, to pray and to work in a positive way to bring that one to Christ. Examples of these are given. Over and over again I have watched such spiritual strategy bring success before the week was out.
Another opening subject I have used has been based upon our spiritual ancestors. I endeavor to explain what it means to be adopted into the family of God and to have Christ as our elder brother. I use Bible illustrations of God's men and women, of sacrificing missionaries, and of pioneers of our message. These can be portrayed in such a way as to motivate a desire to become part of such a noble family.
Sabbath Morning: In this particular week that we are using for an illustration, the Sabbath morning sermon portrays "The Wonderful World of Tomorrow"—the value of a Christian life here and the great gift of pleasures forever- more in God's eternal world. Choices are the hinges of our destiny; though God steers the ship, we pull the decision ropes. Esther settled her destiny in three words, "I will go." Daniel charted his future by saying he would not defile himself. The three Hebrews, in deciding their destiny, used only six words, "We will not serve thy gods." Paul's eight-word question, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" placed him in the hands of God for a life of service. The story is then briefly told how marvelously God honored these choices for their tomorrows here and their future hereafter. In a very practical way I then try to describe the life in the world of tomorrow and share with the audience my reasons for wanting to be there.
On Sabbath morning I like to inform the congregation of the evening subjects for the rest of the week. This enables me to invite the youth who are not part of the school family and the people living in the surrounding community to attend the services. Some Week of Prayer speakers do not like to do this, preferring to have the youth alone in the night sessions as well as the morning chapel periods; however, I personally have found that the friendship and support of the community add to the spiritual success of the whole campaign and seem to be appreciated by the school officials in building good relationships.
Sunday Evening: The nearness of the second coming of Jesus is presented at this time. The certainty of our hope was never brighter than it is today. Surely the coming of our Master cannot be delayed much longer. I have found throughout the years that no other theme can do so much as this subject toward guiding the students into solemn thinking about their personal relationships with God.
Monday Morning and Monday Evening: These talks are especially designed for conversion, revealing how to know Jesus better and find happiness in successful Christian living.
Tuesday Morning: At this service I endeavor to hold high the characteristics of a God-directed and empowered man. For example, I take the life of Moses step by step, drawing practical lessons from his difficulties, hardships, failures, and successes, both personally and nationally. What beautiful traits of character God perfected in this man! What God did for Him He can do for us if we will but allow Him to accomplish it in our lives. We too may have Moses' successful experience and know "the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are thy works."
Tuesday Evening: Here we progress further into the meaning of true conversion. This can be done around the life and experience of Zacchaeus, the man who overcame a job handicap, a personal internal weakness, and outward circumstances in his quest to see the Master. He did not allow ridicule or obstacles to thwart his determination. The result—a transformation of life, no desire to cover his sins, but the determination to make all things right with God and his fellow men. Restitution is a real factor in the lives of teen-agers. Restitution is an obstacle over which the youth need sympathetic understanding and guidance.
Wednesday Morning: The certainty of our message is the theme of this hour. Here I try to encompass the main doctrines of our message. This, of course, must be put in an interest- gripping' setting—a different "package"—to hold the attention of academy minds; however, I have found that the unshakable truths we believe completely hold the interest of our youth. They seem anxious to examine the foundations and structure of their house of faith.
Wednesday Evening: This night gives an opportunity to study the Ten Commandments— not in the usual way, but to put a magnifying glass upon the law to discover what positive beauty, and perhaps forgotten lessons, can be found in this perfect transcript of the character of God.
Thursday Morning: At this time the standards of Christian living are presented. Opportunity is here afforded to answer questions pertaining to the theater, dancing, card playing, gambling, jewelry, make-up, et cetera. Sometimes I use the story of Christ's triumphal entry into the Temple in Jerusalem as a basis of injecting these questionable things. When the Master entered the Temple there was a cleansing of the wrong found there. Even the turtle doves—the seemingly harmless little things—were removed because they had no business in the Temple. Our bodies are temples, and when Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, enters therein a cleansing takes place. He performs this work in our lives. It is wise that this message be not all "don'ts" but of a positive nature, showing the wealth of worthwhile pleasures and happiness in Christian living.
After this talk on Thursday morning, time is given for a Share Your Faith program. This, of course, is a testimony service, but I try to lift it out of the word "testimony" into the sharing of their experience with others for the strength and blessing that it will be if they witness for the good things of God. I like to have a micro phone in the front of the auditorium. I come down from the platform and invite the students to form a line on each side of the auditorium, and to make their statements very brief, so that all will have an opportunity to share their faith at this time.
Thursday Night: This evening's subject deals with the time of trouble soon to face us. The youth sitting before us will surely be tried such as hardly any other class of youth has ever been tested. It is good that they know the promises of God and that they be prepared for any circumstance or trial that may face them in the future. I oftentimes entitle this subject "Plagues and Promises." More time should be spent on the positive promises than on a description of the plagues.
Friday Morning: This is an appeal sermon for decisions. I like to step from the rostrum to the front of the student body at the close of my message, and call for a definite response to the call of the Lord. First of all, I invite those who have never been Christians to come forward and witness before God, angels, and their friends of their acceptance of Christ as their Saviour and of their plans to enter the class in preparation for baptism and uniting with the church. I invite them to come forward and take my hand and then be seated in the front row. Then the appeals can be made for those who have drifted away from what they have known to be true. This is not a general call on this morning, but a special invitation for baptism, rebaptism, or definite reconversion and church membership. Other general appeals have been made at various times during the week. At the close of this morning's service those who have come forward are asked to remain after the student body has filed out, so that I may have their names and desires upon a slip of paper. At this time information is given as to when the baptismal class will meet. After counsel and prayer, they are excused. I make this definite call on Friday morning, when the student body is alone, rather than at an evening service with visitors present. The students are freer to respond when together in their own group. I make another modified call on Friday evening for others to join the group who made their decisions that morning.
Friday Evening: At this service I can direct the attention of the youth to the privilege and great happiness of service for the Master.
Sabbath Morning: This meeting affords the opportunity of stressing faithfulness—faithful ness in communion with God, in Bible study, and in devoted service to His cause. We have found a closer walk with the Lord; now let us share our love and knowledge with others.
The week has passed. Preaching twice a day, classroom talks, counseling almost all the other waking hours, leave a man exhausted, yet as one sees the good accomplished, knows of the blessings gained and the many youth who have turned their faces toward the kingdom of God, it is worth all the effort and prayers expended in this week. Yes, indeed, what a sacred privilege and pleasure to conduct a Week of Prayer and spiritual emphasis in one of our schools!
The Church School Week of Prayer
ERIC B. HARE: Associate Secretary, General Conference Sabbath School Department
Children of eight, ten, or twelve years are old enough to be addressed on the subject of personal religion. Do not teach your children with reference to some future period when they shall be old enough to repent and believe the truth. If properly instructed, very young children may have correct views of their state as sinners and of the way of salvation through Christ. Ministers are generally too in different to the salvation of children and are not as personal as they should be. Golden opportunities to impress the minds of children frequently pass unimproved."—Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 400.
The peak age for baptisms among our own Seventh-day Adventist young people is twelve to fourteen years. And the twelve-to-fourteen-year- old children are in the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades of our church schools. The worker who makes clear, definite calls for decisions for Christ in grades one to five will find that the Holy Spirit will strive with the hearts of those who are entering the portal of manhood and womanhood, to be baptized and thus be born into the church. I love to think of the first great choice of early manhood and womanhood being the choice for God, indicated by baptism.
In order for children to have correct views of their state as sinners and of the way of salvation through Christ, we should make the talks given during our Week of Prayer clearly portray the two paths—the world and the Christian way— the power of the Holy Spirit, of prayer, and of the Bible; and the love of God. These topics can be beautifully dealt with through the week by following a number of illustrative themes:
1. A Comparison of Physical and Spiritual Growth (1 Peter 1:23; 2:2.)
birth conversion and baptism
exercise Christian pleasure and missionary work
sunshine love to one another, parents, and Christ
tumbling down repentance, confession, the Holy Spirit
Develop one topic each day.
2. The Building of the Christian House (Matt. 7:24, 25.)
foundation decision for Christ
shape of house conversion, keeping commandments, separation from world
moving in Holy Spirit, body temples
beautifying the house Fruits of the Spirit
repairs repentance, confession, and forgiveness
3. The Ladder From Earth to Heaven (Messages to Young People, p. 95.)
faith (2 Peter 1:5, 6.)
baptism temperance—tobacco and liquor
conversion separation from the world keeping commandments
decision to be Christians
The greatest question ever asked:
4. What Must I Do to Be Saved?
Acts 2:38 "Repent, and be baptized."
Acts 3:19 "Repent . . . , and be converted."
Matt. 19:16, 17 "Keep the commandments."
Luke 3:11, 13,14 Missionary work, honesty, contentment.
Acts 16:31 "Believe on the Lord Tesus Christ."
Matt. 4:4 Feeding on Word of God.
5. The JMV Pledge
Taken phrase by phrase, related topics can be developed day by day from the JMV pledge.
"By the grace of God"—The love of Christ.
"I will"—"Whosoever will." (Rev. 22:17.)
"Be pure"—Tobacco, alcohol, comics, novels,
"And kind"—Love to one another and to God.(Eph. 4:32.)
"And true"—Honesty, keeping commandments.
"I will keep the MV law"—Obedience and repentance.
"I will be a servant of God"—Decision for Christ.
"And a friend to man."—Missionary work.
6. The JMV Law
Taken phrase by phrase, the JMV law also pro vides a related series of topics that can be developed day by day:
Keep the Morning Watch.
Do my honest part.
Care for my body.
Keep a level eye.
Be courteous and obedient.
Walk softly in the sanctuary.
Keep a song in my heart.
Go on God's errands.
Teaching Children to Testify and Pray
Some workers have been disappointed in the response church school pupils give to a call for testimonies and prayer, when the truth is that some children actually do not know how. It is our privilege to teach boys and girls the joy of testifying for Christ and the joy of taking part in prayer.
The easiest way to begin is to announce your subject the day before, and ask the boys and girls to find a text on that subject to read or repeat. They will find no difficulty in standing to repeat a text on:
The love of God
Keeping the commandments
Then, when they are accustomed to standing and talking, the leader can announce a "blessing day," and suggest testimonies like these:
"I thank God for my eyes, and I am determined that they shall read and look at only that which is pure and clean."
"I thank God for my feet, and with His help I will go only to places where the angels can accompany me."
Two or three patterns could even be written on the blackboard. You will be delighted to see how the pupils will adapt them and change them to fit their individual needs and desires. Even with adults it helps to give two or three suggestive testimonies as you are inviting them to stand.
Many workers have followed the practice of having those who will testify stand all together. No only is it much easier for the timid ones, but it saves a great deal of time.
In teaching children to pray it is good to start with the Lord's prayer, having them repeat it after you phrase by phrase, if necessary, three or four times, then in unison. After this take another prayer, and have them repeat it after you phrase by phrase, so that they can become accustomed to the phraseology of prayer. Then write out a number of sentence prayers and dis tribute them among the pupils, and let them read the sentence prayers. Next, tell them to read the sentence prayer and then add a phrase of their own, and you will be delighted to see how soon boys and girls will be able to pray a very acceptable prayer. I have used this method with my prayer bands at Junior camp, for often about half of the boys have not yet learned how to pray, and always before camp is over they eagerly take part in prayer.
The worker who thus leads his boys and girls through a Week of Prayer, following a theme that is illustrative and interesting, and who takes pains to teach his pupils to testify and pray will assuredly "see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied."
Preparing for the Week of Prayer
HARVEY C. HARTMAN: President, Union College
The main objective of our Weeks of Prayer is to deepen the Christian experience of the students in our schools and the members of our churches. To accomplish this objective, meetings should be characterized by solemnity, and a definite heart searching that will lead the individuals to know Christ in a better and fuller way.
"Students should ever be diligent, but they ought not to crowd their minds so as to become intellectual dyspeptics. They should not be so pressed with studies as to neglect the culture of the manners; and, above all, they should let nothing interfere with their seasons of prayer, which bring them in connection with Jesus Christ, the best teacher the world has ever known."—Testimonies, vol. 4, pp. 424, 425. (Italics supplied.)
"What is the object of assembling together? . . . We meet together to edify one another by an inter change of thoughts and feelings, to gather strength, and light, and courage by becoming acquainted with one another's hopes and aspirations; and by our earnest, heartfelt prayers, offered up in faith, we receive refreshment and vigor from the Source of our strength."—Ibid., vol. 2, p. 578. (Italics supplied.)
"Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own."—Christ's Object Lessons, p. 69.
Since all of us look forward longingly to the soon coming of our Lord, the reproduction of a Christlike character in the lives of His people should be the most important objective sought for.
In order to accomplish the previously named objectives for the students in our schools and the members of our churches, we must have well- organized plans to carry on these most important events of the year.
"Angels work harmoniously. Perfect order characterizes all their movements. The more closely we imitate the harmony and order of the angelic host, the more successful will be the efforts of these heavenly agents in our behalf. If we see no necessity for harmonious action, and are disorderly, undisciplined, and disorganized in our course of action, angels, who are thoroughly organized and move in perfect order, cannot work for us successfully. They turn away in grief, for they are not authorized to bless confusion, distraction, and disorganization. All who desire the cooperation of the heavenly messengers, must work in unison with them."—Testimonies to Ministers, p. 28.
During my boyhood days, as I helped my parents operate a large western Kansas wheat farm, I learned that it was very essential for the soil to receive a proper preparation before the precious seed was sown. The ground was plowed at a good depth and then reworked a number of times through operations of disking and harrowing, which eliminated all obnoxious weeds. This process of soil preparation covered a period of approximately two or three months.
Then in the fall the seed would be sown in clean, well-tilled soil. As the result of moisture in the soil, warmth of sunshine, and God's creative processes, the seed would sprout, come forth, and produce a bountiful harvest. Scientific experiments have proved that the soil needs to be cultivated and prepared properly in order to reap a bountiful harvest.
Proper Preparation Essential
So it must be in our preparation for the Week of Prayer. The hearts of our students and church members alike must be cultivated. Our lives must be purged of all sin and dross. "Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns." Jer. 4:3. Then during the Week of Prayer, as the seeds of truth are sown, a definite harvest will be reaped in Christlike characters reproduced in the lives of the listeners.
How much time should be given to the planning for the Week of Prayer? It has been my practice after one Week of Prayer closes to make definite plans for the next one. After a date has been set for this special devotional week, then further plans should be developed. The leader for this most important event should be chosen well in advance, thus giving him opportunity and ample time to make suitable preparation for the week.
Any leader who is invited to participate in a week of devotion will want ample time for study and communion with the Source of all knowledge and wisdom, so that his life may be well filled and bubbling over with an individual experience in the things of God that will manifest itself, not only through his talks and counseling, but through his everyday life as he mingles with those with whom he is associated during this special Week of Prayer.
In preparation for these devotional weeks it is good that publicity be given well in advance of the specified dates, so that the students and the church members can look forward to and plan for this special opportunity for the out pouring of God's Holy Spirit.
Prayer Band Organization
The religious life committee should meet a number of weeks in advance to organize prayer bands. For each of these prayer bands a leader should be selected who has a vision of the possibilities of the Week of Prayer.
Then a meeting of these leaders should be arranged in advance of the Week of Prayer, in order that they may unite in a very special way in petitioning our heavenly Father for the out pouring of His Spirit, first of all upon themselves, and then upon the entire student body and church. There is a definite power in being united and of one accord in our efforts for the Lord. It serves as a chain of real strength in breaking down the powers of darkness.
The faculty of a school or, in the case of a church, the church board should have a special meeting prior to the Week of Prayer, first of all for planning what the Week of Prayer will mean in their own individual lives, and then for forming definite plans to make this week most effective in the school and the church. In order to accomplish this, the faculty will need to adjust the schedule of classes. Labor loads and assignments may need to be lightened. It is to be understood that during the Week of Prayer the things of God and the accomplishment of God's plan in the lives of faculty, students, and church members should have first and primary consideration; and class schedules, labor appointments, social engagements, and all other activities should take second place during this week.
After the arrival of the one who is to lead out in the Week of Prayer, which is usually a day or two prior to the opening date, a meeting should be called of the leaders of the school and the church, together with the head of the music department or the one in charge of the music, to make sure that the entire program for the week is coordinated with the desires of the leader. Music should play an important part during the Week of Prayer, and it will need to be carefully planned prior to the opening date. Special numbers for each service should be arranged for, not on the spur of the moment, but well in advance, so that those participating in this music can sing from a depth of experience and feeling, and so that the song to be sung will fit into the theme of the speaker's presentation.
It has also proved very effective and helpful to the students and the church members to publish a small bulletin prior to the Week of Prayer, with the topics to be presented at the different meetings. This creates an interest on the part of the listeners and also enables them to study the topic to be presented. Thus they will be much more receptive to the presentation of the speaker.
It is always inspiring to hear the students give personal testimony of appreciation for the help that the Week of Prayer has been in the growth and development of a deeper Christian experience. Since our schools are training the leaders of tomorrow, it is most important that the molding influence of the Weeks of Prayer accomplish all that God designs.
Follow-up for the Week of Prayer
A. GRAHAM MAXWELL: Professor of Biblical Languages, Pacific Union College
IT IS hardly necessary to suggest to readers of THE MINISTRY the importance of a follow-up program after any type of evangelistic endeavor. Nor can one presume to specify just what such a follow-up program should be. There is wise counsel in Evangelism, page 100, advising us to remember—
"that there are varied minds to be reached, and that some will reject the truth as it is presented by one laborer, only to open their hearts to God's truth as it is presented in a different manner by another laborer."
However, from my own observation and experience with Weeks of Prayer I would like to commend one method in particular that I have found to be especially useful. Actually it is a very ancient procedure, but it has never lost its effectiveness to arouse the interest and maintain the energetic participation of young and old alike.
When Jesus was on earth He not only preached the truth to the people. He invited them to feel free to question Him on points not fully understood. Jesus would discuss these questions with them until He was sure that His hearers had seen and acknowledged that they were answered. Only then would He move on to study and explain the next point.
As a master of this sound pedagogical procedure Jesus created such an atmosphere of love and freedom that the people found it a delight to join with Him in the study of the Scriptures. Jesus led men to realize that as beings created in the image of God they were "endowed with a power akin to that of the Creator,—individuality, power to think and to do." He invited them to exercise this power in learning the truth for themselves by the study and discussion of the Word of God.
After Jesus returned to heaven His followers kept right on studying and meeting together in groups to talk and pray about the plan of salvation. It was at just such a meeting that God chose to reveal His power in the great outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
This is the method so strongly recommended to us by the Spirit of prophecy for our use in the finishing of the work. In volume six of the Testimonies, pages 87, 88, there is a most instructive two-page section entitled "Less Preaching, More Teaching." The testimony was given particularly in regard to the conduct of our camp meetings, but the advice may be well applied to weeks of prayer.
"It has been shown me that our camp meetings are to increase in interest and success. As we approach nearer the end, I have seen that in these meetings there will be less preaching and more Bible study. There will be little groups all over the ground with their Bibles in their hands, and different ones leading out in a free, conversational study of the Scriptures. This was the method that Christ taught His disciples."
A week is a very short time in which to accomplish enduring changes in people's lives. Especially is this true in the grade school or day academy, where one is usually limited to only five meetings. It is urgent that something be done to avoid the almost inevitable decline in spiritual enthusiasm that sets in very soon after the Week of Prayer. I know of no better way than the one that Jesus taught His disciples— encouraging the formation of groups to continue the prayerful study and discussion of the Scriptures.
The success of these groups depends on a number of important factors. In the first place, it depends on the nature of the Week of Prayer itself, the methods used, and the message presented. If the people have once again caught a vision of the high goal of perfection God has set before us, and if it has been clearly explained that "the perfection of character He requires can be attained only by becoming familiar with His word" (Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, p. 454), many will be most eager to join in such a program of study.
Another vital factor is the way in which the groups are organized. Overorganization seems to be fatal. The groups must form almost spontaneously and be made up of people who really want to study of their own free will. Otherwise the atmosphere of freedom so essential to vigorous intellectual and spiritual activity will be lost. Then as the meetings proceed regularly at a time and place mutually agreed upon, and as the members begin to enjoy the pleasure and vitalizing benefit of such study and fellowship, it is only natural to think of others in the school or church or community who could profitably join in such an experience. I have seen individuals not of our faith who have been invited to such gatherings participating wholeheartedly in the discussion. I have later seen some of them baptized. This is personal evangelism of the highest order and is very effective, especially because of the close personal contacts involved.
A third vital factor is the way in which the group study is conducted. There must be good leadership at all such meetings. The most important qualification of the leader is not that he have all knowledge about the subjects to be studied but rather that he be a person of a loving spirit and be deeply stirred by a vision of the goals to be attained. Yet the leadership should be so unobtrusive that the chairman appears to be just another member joining in the discussion. For this reason it has recently been observed by a certain famous university chancellor that clergymen and professors make the least successful chairmen because of their natural inclination to talk too much! Be that as it may, the teachers and pastors are usually the ones who foster the study groups after the Week of Prayer has ended. It is surely advisable, therefore, that the visiting Week of Prayer speaker go out of his way to cooperate with the local church and school leaders and to consult them frequently as to the most convenient and profitable course to follow both during and after the prayer week.
The fourth and most vital factor of all is to recognize that the real chairman of all such gatherings is Jesus Himself, presiding through the agency of the Holy Spirit and the angels. The members must be realistically aware of this at every meeting, or the groups are doomed to failure. This implies that the discussions will proceed in an atmosphere of love and patience. They will never deteriorate into controversy over unimportant issues. Those present will be constantly reaffirming to themselves and to God their willingness to live up to the truth as it un folds before them. Proper methods and attitudes in Bible study may well be presented during the Week of Prayer itself.
Such study groups can be formed in any situation from grade school through college and in any local church. Subsequent Weeks of Prayer will serve to encourage their continuance.
"As we approach nearer the end, . . . there will be little groups . . . with their Bibles in their hands, and different ones leading out in a free, conversational study of the Scriptures."