The gentle light makes the room on the second floor cozy and inviting. From the illuminated cross to the couches to the thought-provoking messages posted along the walls, everything says intentionality.
Welcome to The Upper Room, a specially designed prayer place at the building where Europe’s 2022 Adventist Youth Congress (AYC22) is taking place in Lahti, Finland. The place includes stations that invite those young people who walk through to take a closer look at their spiritual life and prayer habits. It’s an interactive place, where they can also participate through various self-directed activities that prompt them to connect with God.
Thanking, Crying, and Wondering
The stations are varied and interactive, prompting guests not only to pray but to reflect by reading, writing, and learning more about prayer.
A Gratitude Station allows visitors to write down those things they are thankful for. Throughout the day, congress attendees trickle in and quietly write their motives of gratitude before moving to another station.
Other stations invite visitors to learn more about the life of Jesus as a Man of Prayer, and what Seventh-day Adventist Church co-founder Ellen G. White had to say about prayer.
Along one of the walls, a station includes a “Wailing Wall,” a place to reflect on broken dreams. Visitors to The Upper Room are invited to write down some of their regrets and sad memories and place them in tin cans lined up on the adjacent wall, as a way of giving those broken dreams back to God.
Finding Your Purpose
A station in one corner is dedicated to finding purpose and vocation in life. It includes signs posted with suggested prayer messages such as “Dear Father, where do You want to use me?”; “What gifts have You given me?”; “How can I work for Your glory?” The visitor also sees white cards that include suggestions for how to move to the next level. They advise, “Today, find someone who is living their vocation and ask them …” They also provide questions such as, “How did you discern what your calling is?” and “When it comes to the question, ‘What is my vocation?’ what advice would you give me?”
In the other half of the room, behind a thin, translucent veil and in a dim light, visitors can sit on couches to reflect and pray, or stand or kneel to talk to God. Throughout the day, young congress attendees come and go quietly. Some of them stay for only a couple of minutes, others for much longer. A hushed reverence seems to stay over the place.
Out in the Forest
The second morning, just a few hundred meters outside the AYC22 venue, an outdoor prayer walk invites young people to personal reflection and prayer with a hike through a section of the Finnish forest. The course consists of eight stations on the Lord’s Prayer in the midst of nature. Participants are invited to reflect on those familiar Bible passages, finding out how they can influence their lives.
Not long after 6:30 a.m., dozens of young people are already walking through the stations, stopping to read the text on the signs. Each text, which includes a part of the Lord’s Prayer and a brief commentary, has been translated into fourteen languages, including Bulgarian, Swedish, and Ukrainian.
In a light breeze, small groups of longstanding or newfound friends stroll along the path surrounded by the view and aroma of the lush coniferous trees. The Prayer Walk course includes a pond, where hikers can stop to bask in the beauty of God’s creation, as they reflect and pray.
The goal of the Prayer Walk is simple, organizers said. “Seek connection with your heavenly Father, communicate with Him, and let Him take you for this very special walk.”
After the hike, the spirits of the hikers are refreshed, and they head to the main venue to enjoy breakfast. It promises to be another day of learning, mingling, and praising God. And once again, either indoors or in the Finnish forest, it will include multiple opportunities for plugging into God’s power by seeking a close connection with Him. Once again, it will be about constant, fervent prayer.