NASHVILLE, Tenn. About a million teenagers at schools across the nation and the world gathered Sept. 26 for the 22nd annual See You at the Pole global day of student prayer.
This year students used Twitter and Facebook to communicate about their involvement, with student Claire Fridey tweeting "One of my favorite days of the school year is #seeyouatthepole! Prayer is powerful!" and a user named Israel tweeting "#seeyouatthepole was a nice way to kick off the day."
See You at the Pole, which began in 1990 among a small group of teenagers in Burleson, Texas, "is simply a prayer rally where students meet at the school flagpole before school to lift up their friends, families, teachers, school and nation to God," according to the event's website. SYATP is student-initiated, student-organized and student-led.
"SYATP helps launch teenagers and college students in unity to minister to their peers," said Daryl Nuss, executive director of the National Network of Youth Ministries, which coordinates promotion of the event.
"See You at the Pole empowers students in prayer at the beginning of the school year to take leadership at their schools. What better way is there to begin a semester than to pray for their friends, community and nation?" Nuss added.
Doug Clark of the National Network of Youth Ministers said it is difficult to count the number of See You at the Pole participants because the event is so widespread, but by midday he had heard from people in Australia, Canada, Germany, South Korea, Guatemala and Puerto Rico besides countless reports across the United States.
Clark said he would be inclined to estimate that a million or more students took part in See You at the Pole this year. Some groups planned to meet Sept. 27 because their schools were closed Wednesday for Yom Kippur.
This year's See You at the Pole theme was "Awaken" based on Ephesians 3:14-21, the passage in which the Apostle Paul urges believers to "grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ."
"Pray for an unusual outpouring of the Spirit of God to awaken the hearts of students on campuses throughout your community ... and the world!" a prayer guide on the See You at the Pole website said.
At the same time, SYATP participants aren't immune from the hard realities confronting today's youth. A group of students at Stillwater Junior High School in Oklahoma witnessed a tragedy immediately after they gathered for prayer around their flagpole Wednesday morning. An eighth-grade student died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the school's common area just before classes started, News 9 in Oklahoma City reported.