Here at summer’s end they’re now telling us that brushing our teeth and washing our hands are threatening our prized Great Lakes. And let’s be honest—what would Andrews University be without Lake Michigan? (Union College, of course!) What’s up with this headline? Turns out that beauty product manufacturers have discovered we rather enjoy the gritty feel of that toothpaste on our teeth and the sensation of scrubbing our hand soap gives us (good-bye little germs). And so they’ve embedded tiny plastic microbeads to create the feeling of scrubbing. The trouble comes when these minuscule beads are washed down the drain into our sewage, piped to water treatment plants and—because the beads are too small to be caught by the plant filters—subsequently washed out into the rivers that flow into our lakes. But even worse these plastic beads absorb contaminants. As a result fish and other lake creatures are ingesting these pellets, thus inserting them with the contaminants  into the food chain of higher ups, including humans. Ecologists have actually discovered vast patches of these microbeads now floating on our oceans. What shall we do? You could, as a recent Chicago Tribune editorial suggested, check for the ingredient “polyethylene” in your favorite beauty aid and write the manufacturer. But poised as we are just a few hours before a new school year at this university, reflect for a moment on the power and influence of something considered by many to be so small as to be inconsequential. Prayer. After all, like a plastic microbead what is one prayer on the sea of life? But the truth is that your prayer combined with my prayer combined with all their prayers can very quickly become a vast and influential swath to be reckoned with, can’t it? For 98 days we have shared a preseason of prayer for this new school year. And to God our prayers have hardly been inconsequential plastic microbeads. Rather He Himself has stirred up this preseason of intercession, as men, women and children have day and night been earnestly calling on Him to fulfill His promise for our lives, our university, our congregation: “I will do a new thing. . . . I will pour water on those who are thirsty and My Spirit on your offspring” (Isaiah 43:19/44:3).  How will God respond to this laser-beam focus of our praying? In many ways He has already begun to fulfill His promise, for “the more earnestly and steadfastly we ask, the closer will be our spiritual union with Christ” (Christ’s Object Lessons 146). Intense and focused praying results in deepening our walk with Jesus, irrespective of the object or answer we seek from God. Our lives have been changed simply because we have been praying. But we are asking for more. Much more. And so on this dedication Sabbath let’s keep our prayers banded together and become “The Circle Maker” and stay in the circle until God opens the floodgates of heaven and does what is truly His “new thing.”