Each year, on the fourth Wednesday in September, students around the world gather at their campus flag pole before the school day begins. This student-initiated, student-led, student-organized event started in 1990 when 10 students decided to gather under the stars and stripes to pray. Today, millions of students meet in the warm glow of an autumn sunrise to pray for their friends, families, teachers, school and nation.
I believe it takes great courage and conviction to participate in one of these events, especially when so many in today’s culture are hostile to Christian beliefs. But there is a measure of safety in numbers and anonymity in a crowd.
But what would happen if you were the only one to show up at the flag pole? If you were the only person at your school to step out in faith and publicly pray for what was most important to you?
One young man at Lake Minneola High School in Florida found out the answer to that question. When Hayden arrived at the flag pole that morning, he thought he was simply the first person there. He decided to pray until someone else came along. When he realized that no one else was coming, the cry of his heart changed. He asked that God would do something with his standing alone.
A passerby who had noticed Hayden standing there by himself snapped a photo and posted it to social media. Members of the community began to chime in praising both the young man and his parents, “I don’t know who he was, but his Momma and Daddy should be proud. That takes courage. He’s obviously a young man of great character,” one man commented.
His mother says this of the incident, “They were talking about my son. The little boy I’d rocked to sleep in blue airplane pajamas when he was sick. The toddler who loved Elmo and couldn’t go to sleep without holding his Veggie Tales characters in his hands had captured the attention of our community by standing alone, by doing everything we’d ever taught him, everything we’d ever hoped he would do. I was completely undone.”
She continues, “I read on through the thread. People who professed no faith commended my son for standing up for his.”
When he arrived home that day, he told his mother the cry of his heart as he prayed there all alone, “God, as people drive by, let them wonder, let their hearts be pricked. It’s crazy because it’s like He answered in a big way!”
I believe that each one of us knows what it feels like to stand alone—to feel like you are the only one who believes, who trusts, who prays. Throughout my life, I have often felt like an outsider because of my faith—in college, at the government office where I worked, when competing in pageants, and yes, even at my church youth group and Christian high school.
Maybe you find yourself standing alone in a marriage that is falling apart. You have carried the burden of sacrificial love for years and you wonder if it is ever going to make a difference. You stand alone in prayer begging God to do something with all the broken pieces.
Maybe you have a prodigal child. The baby who you loved and cherished, the one who you took to Sunday School and VBS has rejected you and all that you believe in. You feel lost and alone as you pray that God will restore to you your precious child.
Whatever impossible situation you face, however alone you may feel, you are not alone and neither was Hayden that day at the flag pole. Hebrews 11 is known as the “Hall of Faith.” The author dedicates 39 verses to describe people whose faith led them to take a stand for God and His Kingdom against the most incredible odds. Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Moses are among those included in this chapter.
After concluding his roll call of faith heroes, the writer makes this bold statement in verse one of chapter 12, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses . . . Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.”
So though you may feel alone, you may believe you are the only one in the battle, you are not. For not only is God within every lonely moment, you are also surrounded by a great gathering of faith heroes who have gone before, who are cheering you on to stay true until you reach the finish line.
Your stand may not be a public one like Hayden’s, but God sees it nonetheless. Hayden’s mother shared these poignant words, “I believe my son would like to remind you God can do big things with your standing alone. Perhaps, for now, you are praying until someone else shows up or takes notice. God sees, He knows, and He can do big things.”