What does it look like to search for connection with God when we can’t find inspirational words through prayer? How do we re-examine our spiritual practices in ways that reflect our presence and full attention, even in the whirlwind of everyday life?

For Julius Obregón Jr. (16), navigating these questions has been a part of the journey he’s stepped into both personally and as a leader. 

Growing up as a pastor’s kid, whose dad was also a musician and recording artist in the Philippines, Obregón has carried a longtime passion for ministry through music. His involvement with youth group in high school brought him to PLNU where he had initially intended to focus on worship arts. 

“When I first got my schedule back, I was bummed to not be in more biblical classes,” Obregón said. “Luckily, I had really great people encourage me to listen to my heart for ministry.” 

He shared that PLNU’s School of Theology & Christian Ministry allowed him to gain an appreciation for Christian tradition through classes with Michael Lodahl, Ph.D., while professors like Kara Lyons-Pardue, Ph.D., helped shape his relationship with scripture. 

“[Lyons-Pardue] instilled in me a sense of humility and wonder when it came to reading the gospels.” 

At the same time, Obregón admitted he was also trying to constructively challenge his own understanding of Christianity and eventually, “hit a point that left me without the words to pray. It inhibited my ability to engage with faith in the same ways.” 

“I learned to appreciate the ways liturgy provides a coming together with the body of Christ. It helped me develop a greater patience because even if it doesn’t always inspire, it shapes who I am as a person and informs what kind of world I want to live in.” 

This period of time caused him to look even more critically at the ways he was connecting to God or leading others in this practice. He said it was the experience of digging into different liturgical practices and allowing others to provide inspiration when he needed it that helped him engage with his own faith again in fulfilling ways. 

“I learned to appreciate the ways liturgy provides a coming together with the body of Christ. It helped me develop a greater patience because even if it doesn’t always inspire, it shapes who I am as a person and informs what kind of world I want to live in.” 

Especially when leading people publicly in prayer, Obregón felt a sense of pressure about not running out of words to provide others. It was through receiving this from others that he felt more connected and prepared to give. 

“The rich tradition of people trying to follow Jesus and do the work of justice connected me to an even greater language. It taught me about the power we have to reshape our desires to want the right things, those that are of God in that they are beautiful and just.” 

In his current role as the assistant director and a podcast producer for the Shema Center for Christian Formation, Obregón is continuing this work of critical reflection, while helping others do the same. 

This nonprofit is a Christian formation group where, “we take inspiration from monastic practices and how they engage with faith as a way of guiding people to connect with their own spiritual journeys in an embodied way.” 

Obregón put this into practice by digging into the richness of Christian tradition. He talks about how “punctuating the day with different liturgies can move us toward compassion, acting justly, and being aware of God. [For example] the intersection of communal prayer flowing into concrete work that helps the community or is creative, allows us to connect faith and vocation, while establishing daily habits.” 

As Obregón continues helping people fully engage in their spiritual practices, he also hopes to “write and record more worship music that can help shape the church’s imagination to desire a more beautiful, justice-oriented, ‘on-earth-as-in-heaven’ reality in the communities they serve.” 

Obregón shared a desire to pursue a master of divinity degree and “continue exploring the ways that theology, spiritual formation, and art intersect.” 

Micah Renner is a writer with a passion for helping people tell their stories.