Imagine this: you’ve just left Adoration, Praise and Worship on a Tuesday night. It’s around 9:15 p.m., there’s music playing and you see a group of students gathered around the Our Lady of Fatima shrine (the Mary statue) laughing and listening to Christian music. 

This is Prayer Night, a new tradition at AQ that caught on over the past Spring semester. This completely student-led event usually joins around 40 students in prayer. The largest of these gatherings brought in 50 students. 

Jarrad Epkey, who recently graduated with a degree in Secondary Education with a Mathematics emphasis, is the student who originally organized and ran this event. According to Jarrad, Prayer Night began as a simple gathering with his friends. He explains that his original goal was to “grow his relationship with Jesus through prayer and to have people encounter Him.”  

Despite starting as a small group, his friends had other people in mind that they wanted to invite, and it grew from there. 

“God has a way of moving in people’s hearts. We can talk to God whenever we want, and He can hear us,” says Jarrad. “You’ve just received this great gift of Jesus and want to share it because God makes people want to share His message.”

Mary statue

Moving the Meeting 

Once they have gathered, the students then relocate from the Mary statue to a second location on campus, a surprise location that changes from week to week. While they had four or five general locations, they made a point to explore prayer all around campus. They prayed in the Donnelly Center, in the Wege Ballroom, in the basement of Regina Hall, Hruby, Kretschmer, Sturrus and sometimes just stayed at the statue. 

Originally, Jarrad intended for the whole event to happen at the Mary statue, given that there were only a few participants. But as the Michigan fall weather grew colder, this drove the group indoors. 

Jarrad explains that, despite the decision to move being based on practicality at first, he believes that it’s important to switch environments when praying. It helps create a transition from meeting up with friends and catching up to a more meditative mindset, where one can better receive the word of God. 

He also adds that seeing a procession of students walking through campus and listening to Christian music makes people curious about the event. 

The Message and Prayer

Once at the second location, Jarrad begins with a short welcome, which usually includes parts of that Sunday’s gospel reading.  

After the welcome, he introduces a starter question and prompts the students to break into small groups of about 2-3 people. After praying as a small group, the students discuss a few more questions about the reading. As an example: “Think about when you were a child and something scared you. How would you feel and how would you respond? How do you envision what Christ’s peace would feel like?” 

Jarrad explains that – among his many good memories of hosting Prayer Night – his favorite part of the event was to see how his friends responded to the message he selected. He says, “Even when a message seems obvious or boring to me, God has a way of touching people in different ways. You get different ways that the same passage can work in different people.”  

After this discussion, Jarrad gives a short, 5 to 10-minute closing word and ends the night with a prayer. Everyone generally shares an intention at that point, or an “intention in my heart” if they don’t want to share it publicly.

He often asks for someone else to do the closing prayer but will do it himself if no one volunteers. Prayer Night generally concludes at 10:15 or 10:20 p.m. 

How Will Prayer Night Continue? 

Jarrad expresses that he’s thought about this in great detail and that he ultimately hopes for it to grow with the community. 

He says, “I’ve done as much as I can. There was a time when I worked hard. Now, since I’m leaving, it’s time for someone else to pick it up. I think the community will make it into what they need it to be. I would hope that it doesn’t stay super structured and that it grows with the members of the community.” 

Jarrad states that he is grateful to have been able to lead Prayer Night and that so many people have been moved by it. But he says, “I hope that it doesn’t just become a legacy for me. I’m honored to be interviewed, but it’s not all about me. I hope that people can grow closer to Jesus. I just pray for our community, that they can learn to love Jesus the way that I have and to receive that love in return.”