The following text is an excerpt from Chapter 11 of Thriving by Following.
“My dad was born and raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, about a twelve to thirteen-hour drive from where I currently live in Cleveland, Ohio. As children, my brother and I would spend most of our summers up there. But as we got older and our commitments grew, we traveled there less and less. In the past few years, I’ve rediscovered my joy for making trips up there, and I’ve found its good way to unplug from the world and spend time thinking, praying, and resting.
One of those recent trips sticks out in particular. On the drive up, my friend and I were listening to a message by Pastor Michael Miller of UPPERROOM (Dallas, Texas) on resting. Feeling convicted, we decided to shut off our phones for the rest of the trip (which felt quite dangerous, to be honest). We noticed within the first day or two that whenever we would sit down to talk, we would get anxious. The experience became more pointed when I arrived back home in Ohio. It was a Saturday night and I was alone in the house. I had just finished dinner, and as I sat back, I suddenly felt overwhelmed with a deep sense of loneliness. Then it hit me: It was because I didn’t have my phone on me. No Instagram or YouTube to cover up that ache.
If I had to guess (and my guess is most likely correct), it would be that most of us feel lonely and anxious more than we care to admit or discover. Our phones, among a plethora of entertainment options, are simply our way of covering it up. In a world of ‘connection,’ we lack true intimacy. We don’t know others, and they don’t know us. I was recently watching The Politician on Netflix where I heard it said well: ‘It’s a pandemic of over-communication but with an absence of intimacy.’  Let that sink in for a second.
Cultivating rhythms of worship and prayer are vital to thriving because they foster true intimacy with God, deepening our relationship with Him and the Holy Spirit over time. Contrary to popular belief, the antidote to loneliness is not our phones, the next best Netflix documentary, or going to the bar.
It’s relationship with God.”
As it is in all areas of our life, Jesus is our example in cultivating rhythms of worship and prayer. He is noted many times in the Gospel accounts as going off to pray alone and spend time with the Father (for further study, see Matthew 14:23–24, Luke 5:16, 6:12–13, 9:18a). In all these instances, Jesus shows how important it is for us to take time to draw away from the chaos of the world to be intimate in the quiet with God. It is not an example of a legalistic, moralistic schedule, but a love for drawing close to the Father, always being led by the Holy Spirit.
So, what might this look like in everyday life? Here are some practical things we can do to cultivate individual and communal rhythms of worship and prayer:
- Having a morning “quiet time” where we set our hearts on God before anything else (such as work or checking our phones), spending that time in worship, prayer, and in studying Scripture.
- Set aside time daily in between tasks or meetings to pray or read a Bible verse. Simply re-centering our focus on Jesus and asking Him to guide us through our next task or meeting breathes life into our souls.
- The YouVersion app is a great resource. It has many “reading plans,” some on specific topics, and others that will take you through parts of (or all of) the Bible. You can also complete them with friends, which increases accountability and how much you might get out of them.
- Join a small group/Bible study. Find one with people around your age and with similar interests. Communal rhythms of worship and prayer can also include one-on-one “coffee dates” with friends or social outings to the putt-putt course (a personal favorite).
- Find a mentor or friend that can be a spiritual leader to you. This should be someone considerably more mature in their faith and walk with Christ that can lead and guide you. We need the wisdom, counsel, and guidance of those who have gone before us.
All these rhythms and disciplines are not “the end.” They are a means to an end, that “end” being deepening our relationship and intimacy with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Every day, we want to grow in our understanding of Him and our love for Him. Our goal is to know Him personally, and that is possible. As always, start small. Don’t start where you think you should be. Start where you are currently. The Lord isn’t here to pressure you but to guide and love you as you grow in maturity. Be led of the Holy Spirit in all your quiet moments with the Lord.
We were created to live intimacy with God for eternity. No matter where you might be today or tomorrow, God is with you in the midst of it. We need only open our hearts to Him as we pursue an intimacy and truth that can only be found in Him.
In this article series, I share excerpts and stories from my book, Thriving by Following. I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did enjoy it and want to stay up to date, you can reach me here via email, or connect with me on Instagram. You can also find my book on Amazon as both an e-book and paperback.
Chapter Excerpt Reference:
 The Politician, season 1, Episode 1, “Pilot,” directed by Ryan Murphy.