It was raining cats and dogs on Wednesday evening. The door of the NSR student association at the Eendrachtsplein is half open. Inside, two students stand in the kitchen between crates of beer and bags of chips. “We’re from the CSFR, we share the building with the NSR,” one student answers when asked if they are planning to party after praying. So, they are not taking part in the prayer week. “And yes, we will have a party later on from 10pm onwards.” CSFR is the ‘rival’ Christian student association of the NSR.
Get in touch with God
The NSR prayer room is located in the basement of the building. In the hallway leading to the room is a bookcase with How should you pray? A practical book for ordinary people on the top shelf. In this room there is a couch, a couple of chairs and a small table, with a desk in the corner full of arts and crafts, such as cards with the texts ‘Grace will lift you up’ and ‘With the Lord at my side, I have nothing to fear’. A board with prayer points hangs on the terracotta wall, along with photos of world leaders such as Macron, Rutte and Putin.
Six students are sitting in the small 9m2-sized room. They have just finished their prayers. “During the prayer week, students can reserve this room for one or two hours to pray together, read the Bible or talk about faith,” says board member Eveline van Seters. “We organise a prayer week in the hope that more people will get in touch with God. We invite everyone to come. Our association is, of course, for Christian students, but it is cool if we can also have conversations with non-believers.”
Praying for the world
What a prayer session looks like in practice varies each time, but this time students have approached it in a very structured way. “We started with ten minutes for ourselves, to clear our minds or read the Bible,” says student Mariëtte. Then they prayed together guided by various themes, from large to small. “First we started with the world, then the Netherlands, Rotterdam, NSR and finally ourselves and the people around us. We take turns in praying. If you have something to say, then you say a prayer in front of the group.” The structure of the prayers helps student Anne-Lot. “You have so much to pray for and you are also here with a group, so that keeps it all nice and clear.”
‘I pray for all the people who have been hit hard by covid-19 and by the war in Ukraine. Also, for third world countries where poverty and hunger are dramatically on the rise’
What are they praying for most this time? “For all the people who have been hit hard by covid-19 and by the war in Ukraine. Also, for third world countries where poverty and hunger are dramatically on the rise,” says student Daniel. The misery in the world touches him deeply. “It is difficult to explain why that is. It’s all so far away from my own life, but I really do feel for them. I believe we have a God who touches our hearts, so our hearts are broken by what His heart is broken by.”
What word would they use to describe their shared prayers? “Inspiring,” Mariette replies. “I have noticed in myself that when I am praying with a group, I am very inspired by the things that other people say and touch upon. Sometimes they are things I hadn’t thought about before.”
There is a knock at the door, the next group is waiting in the hallway. The students pack up their things and leave the room. The next session starts with giving thanks and praying for those around them. In the background, you can hear the music and the muffled din of the floor above. The corridor reeks of beer. It is past 10 pm, the CSFR party has already kicked off.