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Judah Smith: We Need to Radically Rethink Prayer

Judah Smith: We Need to Radically Rethink Prayer

When the team at Churchome released a new feature for its Churchome Global App, which connects users with resources and online communities, nobody could have guessed just how prepared for the pandemic it would be. The Guide Prayer feature lets users listen to short prayers, each centered on a different topic of spiritual principle.

We spoke with Churchome pastor Judah Smith about the app and why the church believes their guided prayers can be so helpful for believers. 

Prayer can be kind of an awkward thing for people sometimes, and having a little guidance is helpful — sort of like Jesus offered with the Lord’s Prayer. Why do you think Christians sometimes have an awkward relationship with prayer? 

First of all, I just want to say thank you for bringing up the Lord’s Prayer. That is exactly the kind of the pattern, the outline, even the rhythm and flow these guided prayers are based exactly on. 

You know, Jesus gave us [the Lord’s Prayer]. I don’t think it’s so much we’re supposed to word-for-word repeat it—although that’s an option. I think it’s more of a guide. We tried to follow a three-part guide based on the Lord’s Prayer. 

I think oftentimes we complicate prayer because of several things. I think we have cultural ideals; I think we have childhood ideals; I think we have church ideals, and these ideals tell us that things have to be done a certain way. Whether or not these ideals are anchored in scripture is a whole other discussion. 

Prayer, in its simplest form, is talking to God … I find it to be a really exciting time to reconsider what prayer can look like. 

Tell more about modeling these guided prayers after the Lord’s Prayer.

Our approach is based in the Lord’s prayer. It starts with “Hallowed be your name”—this perspective of starting a prayer with “God you’re big. You’re powerful. You’re awesome. You’re amazing. 

Then going from there to “You provide for us. Give us this day our daily bread.” That’s the moment where we’re like, “God help me right now in my pain.”  

We use things like declaration and repetition, and then at the end: “Forgive us as we forgive those who sin against us.” It’s this idea of, “Who now can I end this prayer praying for and thinking about and considering?” Even science now is backing this idea that quality of life is enhanced dramatically when we serve one another and use empathy and care and listen to one another. 

So we believe that we’re on solid Biblical ground and believe that people can really experience in five to seven minutes some incredible relief or empowerment and strength to live what is a pretty wild and crazy life these days. 

The prayers feature music and a slow, deliberate pace. How important was it for you guys to capture that sort of meditative quality that is kind of found throughout some of these prayers? 

It’s so important because yes, the culture is crying out for it, but also because our heritage—the heritage of the children of Israel, the Jewish faith and now the fulfillment in the Messiah Jesus. The ways of Jesus are steeped in this idea of “Be still and know that I am God.” 

The ability to be still is something that I think we all need to practice more. Here is this extraordinary opportunity to take ancient scripture that survived the test of time and use it as an opportunity to focus in and be still. 

A lot of the guiding ethos for tech companies creating new applications is, “What problem can this solve?” When you’re establishing new features for the Churchome App, what are the guiding principles? What is your guide for innovation strategy when it comes to Churchhome? 

Well, it really is the first church; the early Christians. It’s the book of Acts. We see that they are daily in each other’s homes, they’re sharing meals, they’re practicing studying the apostles’ doctrine, the teachings of scripture. 

What we’re endeavoring to build here is not just a tech company or a platform, but we believe our biggest win is this concept which is very basic, is face-to-face. We’re living in an age where face-to-face, we believe from the data we’re receiving, is getting lost. 

Even in some of our large auditoriums—and Churchome has large auditoriums where thousands of people gather and we have a speaker and a band—even some of that method now we’re seeing is not necessarily conducive for people to be together, to share a meal together, to weep together. 

The first question that God ever asked man is to Adam: “Where are you?” God knows where Adam is, but does Adam know where he is? And is Adam willing to articulate where he is and how he got there and what’s going on in his soul? So we’re passionate as a community to use technology, buildings—anything we can—to lead people to this real, authentic relationship, face-to-face with God. He is invisible, but face-to-face with God through this sensation that I’m connecting on a profound level with my God. And then, of course, it has to lead to, “I’m connecting on a profound level with a few close friends.” 

We’ll have an auditorium that seats 2,500. Everybody in that 2,500 seat auditorium can’t connect on a level, but they can connect with four five or six. 

I’m reminded when Jesus goes to the Garden of Gethsemane, He’s in the most excruciating pain of his human journey, He has the eleven [disciples] with Him, and then He takes Peter James and John, and they go a little bit further away. And it’s with just Peter, James and John that Jesus says, “I feel like I’m already dying. Will you guys just be here with me? Will you be present with me, and watch with me and stay awake with me?” 

That is being alive. That’s being truly human—being able, in your darkest, deepest, most bleak moment, to have those closest to you able to share those deep emotions and pains and difficulties. I crave that, man. I crave that in a church community on a level that maybe has not yet been discovered. But I think we’ve got a chance of experiencing that more and more. 

So we are pivoting with all the passion we can to ensure that Churchome is a space that leads people to a face-to-face connection with God and authentically deep affectionate friends. 

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