ORU prayer tower to reopen

Tulsa World/February 13, 2009

The long tradition of prayer at Oral Roberts University will enter a new era Saturday with the rededication of the prayer room in the prayer tower at the center of campus.

"We wanted to create a sacred space on the ORU campus," said Clarence V. Boyd, Jr., dean of student development - campus ministries, "a quiet place where people can go to seek the Lord on an individual basis."

For the past 42 years, the 196-foot prayer tower has been a symbol of prayer at ORU.

Founder Oral Roberts had his personal prayer room in the upper level, 100 feet above the campus. It was there that he retired for prayer whenever crisis faced his young university.

The prayer tower also was home to the Abundant Life Prayer Group, where volunteers sat at phone banks taking millions of calls from people around the world in need of prayer.

The Abundant Life Prayer Group left the prayer tower last May when ORU was formally separated from the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association. Started by Oral Roberts in 1958, the prayer group continues at the new OREA location, 6355 E. Skelly Drive.

The phones and fluorescent lights in the tower's prayer room are gone. The renovated room is designed as a quiet place where students and staff can get away from the bustle of campus life to pray.

The floor is carpeted. Lighting is indirect. The center of the room has a cluster of comfortable chairs where individuals or groups can gather, leaving space around them for people who like to walk and pray.

The front wall is made of blackboard material so visitors can chalk their prayers and thoughts. A large wooden cross in the front of the room is riddled with more than 600 holes for rolled up pieces of paper containing prayer requests.

Someone seeking solitude and privacy can duck into one of four small prayer rooms, each with a single chair and a light on a table.

The dedication will take place during this weekend's homecoming activities. And beginning Monday, the prayer room will be open to students, faculty and staff. Hours will be noon to10 p.m. Mondays, and noon to midnight Tuesdays through Saturdays. A student campus leader, staff member or administrator will oversee the room whenever it is open.

Boyd said most of the prayer in the room will be unscheduled, but two one-hour time slots every day will be dedicated to special needs on campus.

He said prayer has always been the life of the university.

"It was out of prayer that our chancellor (Oral Roberts) got the revelation to build a university," he said.

Rachel Shumaker, from Michigan, a student who is a graduate assistant, said most ORU students have a daily habit of prayer and Bible reading.

"But it's a huge challenge to find a place to pray," she said. "Having a place like this will increase the level of prayer on campus."

Nathan French, also a graduate assistant, said many students on campus have been involved in prayer rooms in their home churches, and are enthusiastic about the prayer room and other changes on campus.

"It seems like something new is going on, almost like we've had a new beginning," he said.

Richard Roberts, former president of ORU and now chairman and chief executive officer of OREA, said the Oral Roberts ministry built the prayer tower in 1966 as a "magnificent beacon symbolizing prayer all over the world."

"Its breathtaking architecture is a reminder that God answers prayer. It should remind everyone to pray for Tulsa and for God to bless this wonderful city," he said.

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