Around 2 million students nationwide greeted the sunrise as they assembled at their school flag poles Wednesday morning for an annual exercise of religious freedom that this year included more politically charged prayer topics than usual.
Every year, on the fourth Wednesday of September, Christian students meet at See You at the Pole prayer rallies to intercede for their leaders, schools and families, asking God to bring moral and spiritual awakening to their campuses and countries.
But with upcoming elections this year, many student groups that led SYATP at their campuses sought divine intervention for issues that stand to threaten the moral landscape in America.
In San Diego, California, students gathering for SYATP at Rancho Bernardo High School expressed "uneasiness" specifically over Proposition 8, the California Marriage Amendment, and candidates' stand on abortion.
"The pro-life stand was very clearly a common sentiment among many of the students," Brandon Davie, a senior, told The Christian Post.
"Students also made it evident that the Bible's stand on marriage was the only morally acceptable stand. Marriage means one man and one woman – for life," he said.
Davie was among the 75 students who showed up for the prayer rally, which was organized by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. The group began the morning by praying for different countries around the world, for America, the elections and eventually for students on campus.
This year's theme was: "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening!" based on 1 Samuel 3:9. Students participating in this year's SYATP were called to make a connection with God as a young person and become a Christian who lives listening to God's Word without letting it "fall to the ground" as prophet Samuel had done in his life.
See You at the Pole began when a group of students gathered in Burleson, Texas, in 1990 to pray. Today, it is a still a student-led initiative but is coordinated from the National Network of Youth Ministries in San Diego.
Doug Clark, national director of SYATP, whose son attends Rancho Bernardo said the opposition to SYATP has decreased over the years, especially after the Department of Education issued guidelines that protect students' constitutional rights to assemble and pray.
"There really hasn't been a lot of legal obstacles. The biggest obstacle is whether kids actively get involved," Clark, who has facilitated SYATP since 1991, told The Christian Post.
He said around 20 countries observed the event this year, with an estimated 5,000 students gathering in San Diego schools alone.