Twenty-eight years ago, a hunger began to grow within a rural town in northeast Texas. I was not a Texan at that point, that came much later in my life. However, what happened there had a tremendous impact on me and eventually the entire nation. This was during the buildup toward war in the Middle East. That could have added to the weight the youth involved were carrying.
A group of students became burdened for the world they live in. They became heartbroken for lost souls. They were concerned about the escalating conflict and how our leaders would handle the situation. They came together and began to pray for friends, family, and our leaders.
Pick up your copy of Elissa Finds A HomeLet her teach your children about the power of prayer!
Elissa Finds A Home
How it all began
Burleson, TX. Most nowadays know the place as the hometown of American Idol: Season One winner, Kelly Clarkson. But the town of 45,000 people had been known long before she was singing her heart out on stage. Burleson is the birthplace of a youth movement called See You at the Pole (SYATP.) It started in September 1990 when ten students gathered around their school flagpole and began to pray.
The group of High School students had just come home from a discipleship retreat. They were burdened by the things they were taught; hurting for the lost and dying world around them. The only thing they could think to do about it was to pray. They gathered at their high school campuses at night and prayed. It made sense for them to gather at a flagpole; every school had one, it was easily identifiable, and every student knew where it was. Although they began praying at night, after it caught on students were challenged to meet before school and have a brief time of corporate prayer.
How it is received
It really depends on who you ask. If you ask one group of people, they will be for it. They look at student prayer as a positive because the younger generation is taking an interest in what is going on in the world around them. Some are proud of the stand for Christian values the students take. And others are encouraged to take the stand themselves; I was one of them.
Those who oppose this grassroots movement feel that holding the gathering on school grounds makes it a school-sponsored activity, and school-sponsored prayer is considered unconstitutional. They also feel that it is a distraction and should be stopped. Lawsuits have been filed to try and get this yearly event suspended permanently.
After Christian leaders took notice of what happened in Burleson, they began to organize a much bigger gathering. On September 11, 1991, at 7 a.m. local time, over one million students gathered around their school flagpole and prayed during the first national See You at the Pole event. I was one of the dozen or so who braved that chilly fall morning at Chaffey High School in Ontario, CA.
Many of us did not know each other, other than faces in a crowd. (My high school had well over 3000 students, the size of the entire town where my kids go to High School in now.) By the closing ‘Amen,’ we were all friends, feeling the common bond of collective concern that was flowing at that moment across the nation. This was just months after the First Gulf war. Tensions were still high, and we all felt the need to specifically pray for President Bush and other national and world leaders.
Where it is going
Twenty-seven years later we find the world in a much different position than it was when I was 16. There is so much passiveness and an ever-persistent sense of entitlement flowing through the veins of not only teens but adults as well. So, it is refreshing and encouraging to see the growth of SYATP and how genuine concern for those around us and our country is still in the hearts of some of today’s youth. It is also pretty neat to see my High School age children participating in something I was part of when I was their age.
With the growth of Social Media, it is amazing to see how quick and easy it is to spread the word. When I was young, you only knew about SYATP if you went to a church who was promoting it, or you knew a friend who did. Schools were not allowed to sponsor it, much less advertise it. It was all word of mouth. Now we see media posts, ads on Christian radio, even the news stations are admitting to its existence. Even with consistent opposition, the movement continues to flourish.
By the time this blog reaches you, this year’s event will have passed. That does not mean you cannot pray for the concerns of those who gathered, took hands, and lifted requests to our Heavenly Father. Their concerns should be our concerns, and we don’t need a particular day to communicate those needs to God. The lost around us need prayer, our leaders need prayer, and we need answers on how we are to be used in the process.
We should be proud of our kids. This gathering is student-led. There is no pastor, teacher, or organization behind SYATP. It is all initiated and conducted by the students themselves. Often there are one or two student leaders. These students help spread the word, encourage others, and lead the gathering. My son has more than once taken charge of his school’s event. I remember him being a little nervous the first time. I encouraged him, the same way I’ll encourage you. “Let God lead you. Just pray. Speak from your heart, and the Lord will hear you.”