By REV. BILL HYER
The College of Prayer—It’s Not What You Think
College of Prayer International is a global ministry that has mentored, trained, and equipped over 1 million Christian pastors, church leaders and believers in 52 countries around the world. Its mission is to reach a lost world through a revived church. But unless you have experienced one of its events, it’s probably not what you think it is.
Imagine this. Jon Mitchell, Executive Director of the College of Prayer International, receives a call from the Deputy General of the largest Evangelical denomination in Ethiopia. Its population is 100 million and an estimated 9 million are members of this denomination. He heard of the ministry from church leaders in the Middle East and tells Jon, “We need a sustained move of God.” He invites Jon to their annual prayer conference, and after arriving Jon is taken to a prayer mountain where he sees 8,000 believers on their knees that have devoted themselves to four days of fasting and prayer. They are hungry—desperate for a move of God—and they know it’s the opportune time for God to move in their land. As Jon tells them about the College of Prayer, their leaders recognize this is what they need. While they are “burning” for God, they also know they need “learning” about prayer. They partner with the College of Prayer and launch, at this time 833 “campuses”—with one being 100 members of the nation’s Parliament—and anticipate 3,000 more within the next year!
Imagine this. Church leaders in Cuba, who have a passion for prayer, know they need a movement of prayer in their nation and invite the College of Prayer to come. Over 700 gather in an old Communist warehouse as Fred Hartley, III, President of the College of Prayer International, speaks to them about the ministry. They recognize God is doing something supernatural and commit themselves to partner with the COP launching over 300 “campuses” in churches around Cuba where they are being mentored, trained, and equipped to reach a lost world through a revived church.
Imagine this. Church leaders from one of the most persecuted countries in the world gather with believers from African countries for a campus module. In their own country, they can’t sing out loud and must continuously meet in different locations. The first day at the module, they are completely withdrawn, looking around, observing the people, fearful that they will be seen and identified so that when they return to their country, they’ll be arrested and killed for being Christian. But the next day, after realizing they are safe, they break out together—dancing, hugging, rejoicing, and singing out loud in worship for the very first time in their lives! They are from one of the 18 most persecuted countries in the world where the College of Prayer is mentoring and equipping believers.
These are only three testimonies of the College of Prayer’s ministry in countries throughout Europe, the Middle East, South Asia, Asia Pacific, South America, Central America, the Caribbean, and North America. And could it be true that hearing the name “College of Prayer,” it may not be what you think it is?
The College of Prayer International began 20 years ago through the ministry of Fred Hartley, III, who was mentored by Armin Gesswein. You may never have heard of Armin, but you probably have heard of many, if not most, of the people he mentored: Bill Bright, Founder of Campus Crusade for Christ; Chuck Smith, Pastor of Calvary Chapel and leader in the Jesus Movement; Richard Halverson, Chaplain of the United States Senate; David Bryant, founder of Concerts of Prayer; and Billy Graham.
Armin was Billy’s first prayer leader. When Billy had his historic evangelism crusade in Los Angeles in 1949 with up to 10,000 in his tent, Armin was leading prayer for the crusade with 1,000 in another tent across the street. The College of Prayer was built on Biblical prayer principles that God made known to Armin and passed on to Hartley who founded the College of Prayer International.
There are two primary Biblical passages that form the core of the ministry. The first is in Luke 11 where Jesus’ disciples ask, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). Jesus then goes on to give them the pattern of prayer we know as the Lord’s Prayer, a picture of prayer in the parable of the friend at midnight, promises of prayer, and, most importantly, the power of prayer—the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit.
Just as Jesus trained and mentored His disciples over three years, the College of Prayer has a three-year curriculum based on the disciples’ request. The first year is “Lord, Teach Us to Pray;” the second, “Lord, As Families, Teach Us to Pray;” and the third, “Lord, As Churches, Teach Us to Pray.” Each year Biblical kingdom principles are taught at events called “modules,” 2-3 days at a time, 2-3 times a year, over a 3-year period. Unlike a one-time teaching seminar or prayer summit, participants of the College of Prayer continue in relationship over a 3-year period, or longer. Each module includes instruction, intercession, and interaction as they seek to be led by the Holy Spirit. The purpose of every module is to fulfill Christ’s purpose for God’s House to be “a house of prayer for all nations” (Mark 11:17).
The second primary passage the College of Prayer is built on is Acts 1—a profound passage for the church. It is amazing to realize that after Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to heaven, what He left behind was a prayer meeting! In obedience to Christ’s command to “wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Father,” 120 believers gathered for 10 days of prayer in the upper room. It was there that the Holy Spirit filled them with His manifest presence and empowered them to fulfill Christ’s Great Commission, thus giving the two major principles of the COP: fullness and fulfillment. According to what took place in the upper room in Acts, the College of Prayer seeks to create “Upper Room” environments where the manifest presence of Christ is encountered. As emphasized, “We seek an encounter, not a particular experience.” Five essential elements of an encounter with Christ are high worship, deep repentance, forgiveness of sins and freedom from strongholds, being filled with the Spirit, and empowerment for ministry.
The College of Prayer doesn’t own any buildings. Its strategy is to create “campuses” consisting of a Servant Leadership Team composed of people from different denominations who are committed to the College of Prayer vision and can gather 50 or more people. Presently, there are over 3,500 campuses around the world. It has become not only a ministry, but a global movement.
The next Module of the Jackson MS Campus will be Friday, September 22, and Saturday, September 23, at New Life Christian Fellowship. Pastors, leaders, and believers from Jackson Metro area churches will be coming together to pray and seek God not only for their churches, but for revival and awakening in Mississippi. To register, or for more information, visit collegeofprayer.org/events.
Rev. Bill Hyer is on the Leadership Team and the Academic Dean of the College of Prayer International, and pastor of Reigning Grace Church, Madison, MS.