On the 16th of October, the Youth Prayer Night in the Carpathian Basin was held for the fifth time. The goal of the vigil was for the youth to experience unity in their own communities by staying in our congregations for a night of prayer, uniting with thousands of other youth, and, most of all, God. This year Seminary Students from Pápa prepared the materials for the night. We discussed the event with Rev. Szontágh Szabolcs, head of the Youth Office of the Reformed Church in Hungary.
Where did the idea for a Youth Prayer Night in the Carpathian Basin come from?
The decision of the Constituting Synod of the Hungarian Reformed Church in 2009, stating that all the churches in the Carpathian Basin officially belong together, not only encourages all the reformed youth organisations to work together , but it is also a commitment to do so. We learned about the Subcarpathian Reformed Youth Organization’s initiative at the Meeting of the Youth Committee of the General Convent (GeKIB). In this community we recognize and value each other’s work, we can see how mobile the youth are, how easily they adjust to a new environment – be it a new town, or a new country altogether. It’s very important that everyone works on their field of work to make sure that the youth will think of the reformed community as home, no matter where they live. We are looking for outstanding programs at the meeting, and the prayer night is undoubtedly one of them – a truly spiritual event for the youth. Often, we try to find a way to include spirituality in events, but here, spirituality is the priority; we are coming together to pray, led by the fire in our hearts. Prayer is not the last possibility, it’s the first step.
Why a prayer night? Why not a day of prayer?
It’s very important that while our aim is very clear for everyone, we frame it in a way that can be interesting to the youth. The power of prayer gives, the way it fills our hearts, is convincing on its own. For those who never experienced this feeling the unusual setting can be attractive, and we can’t give up on those who only come because of the unusual circumstances either. Night isn’t only to look for something ‘fun’, in certain cases something destructive, it can be for spending time together in a community of prayer.
What kinds of communities participate in the prayer night?
Based on the experiences of the past few years, most of the youth have been from youth organisatons, people who are already active in a congregation, but youth from university congregations and even from regular congregations join in too. In previous years, youth from Transylvania and Subcarpathia prepared the topics of the night, and this year the honour was given to the seminary students of the Reformed Theological Academy in Pápa. The topics and the schedule are only recommendations, though, every community decides for themself how they wish to participate – prayer doesn’t depent on the outside instruments. For example University Chaplancy in Debrecen held the prayer night on a bus during their trip one time, or in Subcarpathia the prayer night was held in the College and it was going on until dawn.
What is the purpose of the prayer night?
We need to relearn, teach and live through what it means to be in a relationship with God, and prayer is the way to do it. I wish that this link would become natural again, that we all searched for ways to grasp the place of prayer in our relationship with God, and that we talked about conversion and how it changes one’s life. Our church’s mission is to bring the gospel to everyone – and prayer has an especially important role in that.
Bagdán Zsuzsanna, portrait: Vargosz
Originally published in ‘Reformátusok Lapja’.
Translated by Melinda Kara
Worship born from gratitude – an intake of breath
For Christians, prayer is a necessity in life, a form of breathing, because prayer is our connection to God. God started a conversation with humans when He created them, and therefore prayer is essential to our life. Prayer is the believer’s ‘attitude’. It is an ever-present need, to be in this living relationship, which is a conversation with the living God. The most important part of being thankful in life is prayer – like it is stated in the 116th question of the Heidelberg Catechism – where we live out our relationship with God. Prayer is not a wish list; it is an answer to how we discover God’s work in our life and in the world around me. It is an expression of understanding what God expects of me. In the Christian understanding, prayer and action belong together. Any action must start with a prayer. 'To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world,’ said Karl Barth. When someone is truly praying they feed into both the fear of God, and the unstoppable trust in Him.
Prayer is not just a part of gratitude; it is the most important step of it. Worship born from gratitude is the bridge between study and life, between theory and practice.
In the reformed way of looking at life, praying and working are inseparable. True prayer is a life dedicated to obeying God. True prayer is a part of everyday life - it fills all our work, be it easy or hard, so that everything we do is in the name and to the glory of God.
Dr Fekete Károly – Bishop of the Transtibiscan Reformed Church District