Sometimes I get these awesome ideas. Such as, going to bed at a decent hour (NEVER happens), taking a five-minute homework break (yeah…one hour later, still having a dance party with my roommate), or driving to three different OCF events/retreats across different states in ONE weekend (for the record…it was INCREDIBLE!).
Sometimes these ideas are a bit of a stretch and can leave me questioning my judgement, but sometimes these ideas have worked out in my favor and have lead me to some of the best and most memorable experiences of my life.
Last year, one of my favorite ideas was to sign my OCF chapter up for the 3 am time slot for Day of Prayer.
What is Day of Prayer? It’s a day when Orthodox Christian students join together and pray unceasingly for the first 24 hours of Great Lent. OCF chapters from all over North America sign up in advance for a one hour time slot. Then, beginning at 6 pm on Sunday and ending at 6 pm on Monday, chapters will livestream their hour of prayer so that people from all over the globe can view and participate in this spiritually-enriching experience with their brothers and sisters in Christ.
During my freshman year at school, I remember watching the Day of Prayer livestream on my computer from my dorm room. I had been frantically finishing up some homework at an absurd hour of the night. It was quiet and my roommate was asleep, but as I sat there in the light of my desk lamp, listening to the steady voices of the students reading, chanting, and singing the prayers of their hearts, I had a sense of peace come over me. I was being remembered and prayed for; I was not just another college student who felt like they had fallen below the radar of the outside world. In that moment, I was reminded that I was not alone.
Skipping to the following year, remember how I said I had this awesome idea to sign up for the 3 am time slot? Well yep, it was happening, and I managed to convince most of the members from my OCF chapter to join in on the awesomeness too.
In the dimness of the church with a faint chill running up and down the pews, our little group gathered in a semi-circle in front of the icon of Christ. We prayed the prayers, and as I looked around at my chapter, some of my closest and dearest friends gathered in one spot, I had no desire to be back in the comfort of my warm bed where I probably should have been at that hour of the night. I wanted to be there, standing side-by-side with my brothers and sisters, talking with God and thanking Him for all of the blessings in our lives. I don’t know about you, but I talk a lot. I could ramble on for hours if given the opportunity, but when it comes to talking to God, I don’t do it nearly as much as I should and as much as I would like to do.
Day of Prayer gives us that opportunity. You literally set aside one hour during your week to talk to God; to ask for forgiveness, thank Him, and give glory to Him for all things. You physically and remotely come together on the first day of Great Lent, prepared to start the journey with a clean slate, and you are not alone.
Maybe I was too jet-lagged after returning from my Real Break trip the day before to realize, but the initial grumbling of, “Rachel you signed us up for WHAT?!” later that morning turned into a collective agreement that it was so worth the effort.
Day of Prayer 2017 is from Sunday, February 26th to Monday, February 27th. Sign-ups have already begun–check it out here!
Rachel Howanetz currently serves as the Mid-Atlantic Student Leader on the Student Leadership Board. She’s a junior at Millersville University studying Early Childhood Education.
College is tough. Between classes, clubs, sports, relationships, and missing family, it gets very stressful. Trying to actively keep the faith and pray, fast, abstain from certain activities, and go to church regularly adds to the struggle.
Many times a semester I’ll find myself worn down from all of these things and needing a break. I’ve find an oasis in the OCF at Penn State, and hope you have at your school, too. But every once in a while it’s nice to have something special to help refresh you. One of my favorite events like this is Day of Prayer.
I’ve participated in the Day of Prayer each year I’ve been in college so far. This year it’s from March 13th at 6PM Eastern to the 14th at 6PM. If you don’t know how Day of Prayer works, for 24 hours, OCF chapters around the country will be on a live stream for one hour-increments praying in front of a camera. You can easily go online any time during those 24 hours and watch other Orthodox students in Pennsylvania or Kansas or even Hawaii praying. When you go to sleep on the 13th you can take a peek or look when you wake up on the 14th. Following along is easy and flexible. Just go to the OCF website and find the link and watch and pray along.
It’s also really enriching to participate, as I have the past two years. If you’re looking to refresh yourself from the grind of college, have a great bonding hour with the members in your OCF, or just pray, it’s a great way to do so. Staying up really late and walking to church with your OCF friends to pray together in an otherwise empty church at 3AM is a great way to refresh your spiritual life.
Heck, I enjoyed it so much I purchased a Psalter that week so I could pray in a similar fashion in my own room. It truly is a valuable experience individually and as an OCF group. I certainly felt a lot closer to those I prayed with for that hour afterward and think you will too. And I’ll never forget being in that candle lit chapel and seeing the candle light and shadows dance around on the icon of Christ.
So if you can, go for it and sign your OCF up to pray on the live stream. Try to personally do it at least once in your college career. And if you can’t, try to tune in and watch for a little bit on the stream. Also make sure to spread the word to your other Orthodox college friends so they know about this amazing opportunity!
Tim is a Penn State Schreyer Honors student junior double majoring in Management (with an HR concentration) and Labor & Employment Relations, with a minor in the Legal Environment of Business. He has been an active member of the Penn State-University Park campus OCF his entire collegiate career and is now the active president for the club. Tim is also the current OCF Philadelphia District Leader. Feel free to hit Tim up on Twitter or LinkedIn to talk basketball or Orthodoxy.
The school year is off to a fresh start and so is the OCF year! While planning your year, it’s important not to forget about the four pillars of OCF. Here are some suggestions for ways to incorporate all elements of OCF so you can have a blessed, fruitful year.
- Hold an off-campus potluck dinner.
- Go to your school’s sporting events together.
- During midterms or finals week, have a study party…and don’t forget the snacks!
- Organize a friendly game of Capture the Flag or Ultimate Frisbee.
- Go out for Sunday brunch together after Liturgy.
- Invite a guest speaker. See if there are any priests in your surrounding area who don’t regularly come to OCF, a professor from your school, or a member of the parish you attend.
- Watch a Christian movie, listen to an Ancient Faith Radio podcast, or read an article and have a discussion afterward.
- Play a game of “Stump the Priest” with your spiritual advisor – everyone comes up with their toughest theological questions for the priest until he can’t answer one!
- Pick a book to read together. Each week one person reads a chapter, summarizes it for the group, and leads a discussion.
- During your normal meeting time, bake cookies or write cards to send to nursing homes, hospitals, or soldiers.
- Take a Saturday afternoon to volunteer together at a soup kitchen or nursing home.
- Volunteer as a group with one of the service clubs on campus.
- Host a bake sale on campus and donate the proceeds to charity.
- Learn a new hymn together – maybe in a chanting style different from your own.
- Make prayer ropes.
- Have Forgiveness Sunday vespers together before Lent starts.
- Hold a Paraklesis service as part of Day of Light.
- Participate in Day of Prayer.
A blessed Lent to all!
For those of who don’t know, my name is Thano Prokos. I’m the current Great Lakes Student Leader on the OCF Student Leadership Board, and I had privilege along with the awesome Nicholas Wacks to be one of your Day of Prayer coordinators this year.
In the spirit of Great Lent, I’m going to have to ask you all to forgive my cheesiness when I say that Day of Prayer has held a special place in my heart since my first year in OCF. Before I ever participated in College Conference, Real Break, or Serve for St. Patrick Day, I participated in Day of Prayer with the rest of my OCF chapter. The first time where I was ever part of something along with the greater OCF body was when I stood in front of a MacBook camera in St. George Church in Chicago reading the Compline service with my chapter and whoever was watching online.
So, when I was told that I would share the responsibility of coordinating Day of Prayer, I definitely felt eager because of how familiar I was with the program. However, I challenged myself to really think about what Day of Prayer meant to me, and why it’s an essential staple on our OCF calendar. Sure, it’s a great way to expose your campus to Orthodoxy, and it’s a wonderful way to start Lent off on the right foot, but what more can we get from Day of Prayer?
Consider for a minute our OCF theme this year:
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
If you asked me what the best thing about Orthodoxy is, I would argue that it’s the fact that the Orthodox Church truly is one whole church. Let’s get a little cosmic for a moment; through our traditions and our communion with each other, our church transcends both time and space to exist as one body existing in tandem with our Lord.
Think about it…
We regularly hold a service originating from the early first millennium. At least once a week we receive communion, partaking in the body of our one Savior. We revere saints: role models of all different walks of life whom we believe to be influentially and metaphysically present in our services. Much of our theology revolves around the belief that we engage in the same worship as the Orthodox in our neighboring churches, our cathedrals, our mission parishes, churches abroad, our Orthodox ancestors, and the Orthodox of the future. If we don’t believe in a finite Christ, then neither should we believe that His bride is finite. Our faith is a celebration of that infinite one-ness: all Orthodox everywhere at all times are united.
Alright, so now that we’re no longer smoking the incense, lets get back to something a bit more concrete, shall we?
Day of Prayer is very much a microcosm of that convoluted mess I described two paragraphs ago. If you participated, you offered pretty much the same service as everyone else who participated. You read the same list of names and prayed for the same people that every other participant read, and when your hour was up another chapter did the same thing that you did. It’s best not to think of Day of Prayer as 24 separate services, but instead one service offered by our whole OCF body.
We’re about two weeks into Great Lent, and if we reflect on Day of Prayer’s purpose as our OCF kickoff into this season of bright sorrow, then there are many things that we can take away from the rest of our journey. Here are just a couple:
- Hold on to or get a copy of our Day or Prayer reader service! I’ve already used it a couple times as a reference for group and individual prayer over the past couple of weeks. If you have difficulty finding lists of prayers that you can offer, then try this one out as a reference.
- Remember that you’re not on your Lenten journey alone. You’re on your way to Pascha along with all Day of Prayer participants and the rest of our Orthodox body. Keep all of us in your prayers, and use the dedication to the faith we exhibited on Day of Prayer as fuel to keep moving forward this Lent.
I really want to thank all those who participated in Day of Prayer and our North American staff for working so hard to give us the resources and organization to make it possible. If you or your fellow students didn’t get a chance to participate in Day of Prayer this year, then I highly encourage you to make sure you sign up next year. Remember, that we’re all one church and one body, and while infinite is a pretty big concept, it’s just not quite as big if you’re not involved!
Enjoy the beginning of Spring, and what I pray to be a fulfilling and fruitful Lenten Season!
About the Author
This is a guest post from Thano Prokos, Great Lakes Regional Student Leader on the 2013-2014 Student Leadership Board. Thano is a junior at DePaul University, majoring in Secondary Education. This is his first year serving OCF on the SLB.
Join OCF chapters across the continent for 24-hours of prayer for Day of Prayer 2014! Tune in to our live broadcast channels to participate from wherever you are all day long this Sunday and Monday from 6 PM-6 PM Eastern.
Note: Chapters will broadcast alternating between channel 1 and channel 2 starting Sunday at 6 PM. For a list of chapters broadcasting, check out our calendar.