This semester, an informal prayer group of approximately 30-50 students has formed under the encouragement of Joseph Yoon, also known as JY, a senior English major and this year’s student chaplain of prayer. These prayer meetings are currently held every Monday and Friday at 9 p.m. in front of Edman Chapel as a way to unify existing prayer groups and encourage students to dive into prayer for the spiritual revival of the campus.
Yoon formerly led and served as a cabinet member for Wheaton KidoMoim (휘튼부흥기도모임, which means “Wheaton revival prayer meeting”), a Korean-style prayer group in which participants pray their own prayers aloud simultaneously with others. He started the group, which still meets every Wednesday, during his freshman year. He felt that a space for deep, fervent prayer was missing from the campus culture.
“There’s a phase in Korean, ‘기도는 신자의 호흡이다,’” said Yoon. “It’s saying that ‘prayer is the breath of the believer.’ We realize that prayer isn’t just something that you do as an addition, it’s a necessity. If you don’t have prayer, then something’s very wrong.”
The number of individual prayer groups across campus has surged since the return to in-person learning. Some of these new prayer groups include members of the football team, residents of Terrace Apartments, residents of Traber Hall, and a group that meets regularly in Goldstar Chapel.
Upon witnessing the growth of KidoMoim and the emergence of these new groups, JY suggested the formation of a joint prayer group that is open and available to everyone on campus. The first meeting occurred on September 13.
Yoon and Jess Weary, a senior AHS major who also serves as a student chaplain coordinator, helping lead student chaplains and their ministries in the Chaplain’s Office, say they want to make prayer an essential aspect of discipleship on campus. Weary described the unique opportunity that the power of prayer presents in Christians’ relation to God and the body of Christ.
“I think when you allow your heart to be broken by the needs of the world, you need a way to bring that brokenness to Jesus and to ask him to bring healing and to ask him to work,” she said. “I think prayer does that. Prayer is our avenue to bring all of the hurts around the world to Jesus even if we can’t physically be with someone.”
JY saw a need for revival on campus, which led him to start KidoMoim his freshman year at Wheaton. Joey Jin, a senior economics major and one of the group’s current cabinet members, said he shares the same passion and vision for revival.
“When we say revival, that’s when Jesus becomes the center of each spirit, but also the center of all relationships, all the classrooms, all activities, chapels, prayers, and meetings,” said Jin. “It starts with a really small change in each individual.”
The leaders themselves said they have also learned and grown immensely in their spiritual maturity as they’ve developed a deeper understanding of prayer. Weary explained the impact that prayer meetings have had on her since coming to Wheaton.
“I’ve learned a lot about how the Lord doesn’t want or need perfect prayers,” she said. “He just wants us to be real and honest with him. I’ve learned about praying with the Spirit and trusting that he’s at work in my prayers even if I don’t fully know what to pray.”
Both Weary and Yoon noted that they feel fully supported by the staff members in the Chaplain’s Office, as well by the professors that know of the groups. Professor Donté Ford, the associate chaplain of worship arts and assistant professor of music, explained the importance of corporate prayer and the positive effect these groups are having across campus.
“[It’s] significant because you have students who are gathering with this heart for prayer, particularly coming out of COVID-19 but also with all the things that we know can divide us and shift our focus away from Christ and his kingdom and the mission that we have as individuals and believers,” said Ford. “I think these types of sporadic prayer groups are helpful in pushing the tide toward revival, rejuvenating our campus, rejuvenating our students, and even transcending to our staff and to our faculty members.”
During the last century, Wheaton experienced two events on campus that are often described as revivals. In 1950, during the regular session of the biannual “Evangelistic Week,” students began to offer confessions and testimonies one by one, all through the night, and into the next morning. In 1995, during a meeting of the World Christian Fellowship, students got up to speak after a presentation and began to confess their sins, forming a line and filling up Pierce Chapel until 6 a.m. Both revivals were marked by students praying together.
But the current prayer group seeks a different kind of revival, particularly that of individuals’ hearts and fervor for prayer. They are also completely voluntary, and not affiliated with a specific student group or ministry. Despite their unofficial nature, the recent prayer meetings have brought together several groups and communities across campus including students from the football team, the Conservatory, and the Asian, Asian-American, and Pacific Islander communities.
Ethan Kim, a sophomore economics and classical languages student who has attended different prayer meetings throughout campus, noted the impact that corporate prayer has had on his individual prayer life and his understanding of prayer as a spiritual discipline.
“Attending the meetings has made me a lot more bold in being able to say what I actually want to say in front of God when I’m praying corporately,” he said. “It’s made me realize that there’s no shame in the vulnerability that I can have before God. There’s just something about being around other people who are also praying so fervently; prayer requests start coming out of my mouth that I don’t even realize God placed on my heart.”
Even if students are unable to attend prayer meetings, Yoon, Weary and Jin all highlighted the importance of individual prayer.
“I love the prayer meetings and I think prayer meetings are really important, but I think the most important form of prayer is prayer in solitude,” Jin emphasized. “The true desperate prayers of revival should be behind closed doors, and I think those prayers are the most powerful as well.”
Weary also offered encouragement regarding the confidence that students, staff and faculty at Wheaton, as well as the broader body of Christ, can have concerning the vulnerability of prayer.
“I would encourage people that the Lord loves and longs for all of your prayers, no matter what form it comes in,” she said. “Whether it’s filled with joy or sorrow, or even if it’s broken and you don’t have the words to say or it feels like you’re stumbling. The Lord is faithful to move in the simple practice of praying, and he delights when we pray.”