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Every three years between Christmas and New Year, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship sponsors a 5-day mission event called "Urbana", named after its longtime location at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois.  The last several events have been held in St. Louis (due to outgrowing the venue), but the conference retains the Urbana brand.  Urbana challenges college students to see the needs of the world and to respond to God's call to expand his kingdom globally.  My own personal prayer life and prayer ministry owes its origins to Urbana '84, so I thought I'd focus this spotlight on Urbana '15, scheduled for 12/27-31, 2015.  (Where did those 30 years go?!)

Urbana is a conference founded on prayer (I've included some of their specific requests for prayer below).  When I attended, we had small group Bible studies in the morning and those same groups met for prayer each night (usually around 10:00), reviewing our days and praying for discernment of God's call; in fact, this was where I (and probably thousands of other college students) first learned to consider and pray about God's path for my life.  And it's no wonder, given the amount of prayer that goes into the conference. 

Urbana's prayer page notes this from David Platt: 

David Platt’s first exposure to InterVarsity came at a preparatory retreat for Urbana 12 speakers in August 2012. One of the things that impressed him the most was our commitment to prayer. He said, “I speak at a lot of conferences. And I have never seen a group putting on a conference who takes prayer as seriously as you all!”


Urbana 2015 will guide attendees through studies on the book of Matthew through small groups and expositions; broaden their vision through plenary sessions (with about 16,000 attendees!); and challenge their thinking through hundreds of breakout sessions focused on different topics of missions.  Of particular interest to us as people of prayer, Urbana will open the eyes of students to the concept of missional prayer and will challenge them to understand that, in the words of Eric Alexander, "Prayer is fundamental, not supplemental" to the work of the church.

Students will have an opportunity to begin to practice missional prayer both in their small groups and through a missional prayer room, where they will intercede for the needs of the world.  They'll be given an opportunity and space for worship and reflective prayer, and times and spaces to receive prayer from volunteers at the conference.  In short, not only the conference but also the attendees will be saturated with prayer.  I speak from experience when I say many of them will be changed forever by the encounter.


To get a taste of what students will hear, check out this excerpt from Eric Alexander's exposition of Ephesians in Urbana '84: The Ministry of Christian Intercession.


If you're passionate about raising up the next generation of prayer warriors within the church, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more strategic event to pray for than the Urbana missions conference.  As God leads you, please lift up the following requests from the Urbana staff:


  • Pray that all participants would encounter Christ as we spend hours studying the Gospel of Matthew, hearing careful exposition, and receiving from the Spirit through the gifts of artists.
  • Pray that the Lord would protect, sustain, and direct everyone working to make Urbana as useful and beautiful as possible, including leadership, the worship team, volunteers, media, operations staff, speakers, and prayer ministers.
  • Pray that while on break from campus life—where many are in important conversations about racial justice—students would hear God’s call to justice and be equipped as agents of change and reconciliation. 
  • And pray that we all hear, discern, and embrace God’s call to his global mission—that we have courage to reach beyond perceived limitations, encounter the unfamiliar, risk failure, and say “YES!” to Jesus. 


If you're interested in praying during the course of the conference, Sign up to receive daily prayer requests from December 27-31. You can also watch the live stream at to guide your prayers.

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Comment by Andrew R. Wheeler on January 1, 2016 at 10:58am

Prayers of Thanksgiving from Urbana:

Thank you for supporting Urbana 15 through prayer. God has truly met us and revealed himself to many people this week. 

Prayers of thanksgiving for December 31:

  • 681 people chose to follow God for the first time!
  • Over 9,000 committed to praying for the global Church.
  • 12,672 participants utilized the Prayer Rooms.
  • During the December 31 Evening Session Dr. Fung reminded participants that following Jesus is costly but worth it. He then invited those who said yes to serving in cross-cultural missions to stand as he commissioned them for service to the King.
  • Participants celebrated the new year with worship and reflection on what God did these past 5 days.

Please continue praying for participants as they depart from Urbana today. Pray for the Lord to sustain and build upon the growth they experienced here as they head out to serve in God's global mission.

Thank you again for partnering with us in prayer.

Comment by Andrew R. Wheeler on December 31, 2015 at 5:49pm

Prayer Requests for Urbana, Thursday, 12/21:

Prayers of thanksgiving from December 30:

  • Many responded to David Platt’s invitation to give their lives unreservedly to Jesus!
  • Space in the Prayer Ministry Room was maxed out as we prayed with people who made first-time commitments for Jesus and those who recommitted their lives to him.
  • Participants have been challenged by Bible studies from the Gospel of Matthew.
  • Much of the afternoon program (seminars, prayer rooms, Hack4missions, and tracks) are faithfully seeking the Lord’s guidance in how they live out the Gospel in their context daily.
  • Jamil shared stories of Muslims coming to faith in Jesus, and the Evening Session ended with communion and a beautiful dramatization of the Passion Narrative. 

The theme for our last day, December 31, is the victory of God. Please pray for:

  • God’s anointing on Allan Matamoros as he gives the call for participants to give their whole lives for God’s global mission; pray also for speakers Dr. Fung and Steve Colby.
  • Participants to process what the Lord is saying to them at Urbana (there are no seminars and tracks to allow more time for processing). 
  • People praying, reflecting, and worshiping as they discern God’s call in their lives.
  • Participants to be filled with God’s joy.
  • The closing worship celebration to begin the new year.

As we close, we want to share a comment from a participant: “I think one of the reasons why Urbana works is because of the deep commitment to prayer. This conference is bathed in it!”

Thank you for your part in praying for Urbana.
The Urbana Team

Comment by Andrew R. Wheeler on December 29, 2015 at 11:26am

Prayer requests for December 29:

Prayers of thanksgiving from December 28:

  • Participants engaged enthusiastically and attentively in Bible studies, including a student who came to faith saying “I think I finally figured out who Jesus is.”
  • Dr. Patrick Fung exposited Matthew 8:18-24—where he shared with participants that “Jesus does not prevent the storm, but he does save us from the storm.”
  • The worship and performing arts teams led Urbana in powerful worship.
  • Michelle Higgins called participants to “surrender the control of our story to the Author of our story.”

The theme for December 29 is the offense of God’s generosity. As we move forward, please pray for:

  • God’s anointing on Dr. Fung, Evelyne Reisacher, MaryKate Morse, and the entire program team to be used powerfully.
  • Participants as they engage in prayer for the persecuted church.
  • Nearly 200 Hack4Missions participants who are using technology to advance God’s global mission.
  • Jesus to use seminars to help participants continuing exploring what story they’ll tell.
  • Health and rest for members of the worship and operations team.

Thank you again for praying.
The Urbana Team

Comment by Andrew R. Wheeler on December 28, 2015 at 5:39pm

Prayer requests from Urbana 15 for Monday, December 28:

  • For participants who heard Urbana 15 Director Tom Lin's invitation to consider "What story will you tell?"
  • That participants will experience God's goodness despite difficult travel due to weather.
  • For many InterVarsity staff and volunteers as they train and prepare to serve Urbana participants in the coming days.
  • Praise that check-in for participants ran smoothly.

The theme for December 28 is the leadership of God in the midst of darkness. As we move forward, please pray for:

  • God's anointing on Tom Lin, Dr. Patrick Fung, Christena Cleveland, Francis Chan, Michelle Higgins, and the entire program team to be used powerfully by God. 
  • Participants to encounter God in manuscript Bible studies each morning.
  • Participants to easily find their way around the conference.
  • Staff and exhibitors to have strength and endurance as they serve God and participants. Especially pray for restful sleep for everyone working on Urbana 15.

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