“I’m a pastor, but my church isn’t weird. I’m not from a scary church.” That’s how Emily Scott describes St. Lydia’s, a congregation recently described by The Atlantic as “the secret Christians of Brooklyn.”
Their services are staged as dinner parties. They attract young professionals and homeless people alike. St. Lydia’s is designed to emulate early Christian worship, centered around meals and community. Their model is working, because they provide a safe place for people to seek the God their souls so long to know.
Just as our bodies need physical food, so our souls need spiritual nourishment. That’s why Jesus called himself “the bread of life” (John 6:35) and promised water to quench every thirst (John 4:13-14). The worship service you attended yesterday is not sufficient for your soul today. Scripture calls us to “seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!” (Psalm 105:4).
But our souls have an enemy. British minister Samuel Chadwick: “Satan dreads nothing but prayer. His one concern is to keep the saints from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, he mocks our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.”
Since Satan so hates prayer, we can expect him to do all he can to keep us from continued intimacy with our Father. In my experience, he employs four primary strategies.
One: Self-sufficiency. He tries to convince me that I don’t need more of God than I have. The enemy wants prayer to be a morning chore, not continued communion with the King of the universe.
Two: Internal distractions. As I set aside time to pray, tasks suddenly come to mind. People and problems begin to crowd my thoughts. I have learned to keep a pad and pen nearby, so I can write down these distractions and focus on my Father.
Three: External interruptions. When I begin to pray, it’s amazing how often the phone rings or people knock at the door. That’s why we need to arrange for uninterrupted time with our Father—an early morning walk, a closet with no technology, a day in solitude.
Four: The pressure of busyness. Charles Hummel’s classic booklet, Tyranny of the Urgent, notes that the urgent and the important are seldom the same. What seems urgent seldom is. And we must refuse the urgent if we would do the important.
It is the same with prayer. The busier we are, the more we need God’s strength. I can pick up a book by myself, but I need help to move a bookcase. The more you have to do, the more you need time with the One who can empower you to do it. (Tweet this)
A newly-hired lumberjack cut down more trees on his first day than anyone else in the camp. The next day, he fell behind the others. By the third day, his production was so low the foreman asked for an explanation. “I don’t understand,” he said. “I’m working as hard as ever.” With a flash of insight, the foreman asked, “When last did you sharpen your axe?” “Sharpen my axe?” the lumberjack replied. “I don’t have time to sharpen my axe.”
How sharp is yours?