But despite Jesus’ instructions, the report of his power spread even faster, and vast crowds came to hear him preach and to be healed of their diseases. But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer. – Luke 5:15-16 ESV
We live busy, non-stop, distraction-filled lives. We fill every second of every day with activity, much of it good, necessary and, to a certain degree, unavoidable. But the problem is that we tend to crowd out prayer. We leave little time for one of the greatest necessities of life – communication with God. Because of our busy schedules and crowded agendas, we end up giving God the dregs of our day. We attempt to pray as we fall asleep at night, exhausted and brain weary. Or we lift up a quick prayer in the morning between our third cup of coffee and checking our email. Busyness can end up being one of the greatest detriments to a healthy prayer life. So what are we to do? We can’t just eliminate all our commitments. We can’t quit our jobs, abandon our children, renege on our responsibilities or love to a monastery.
But we could follow Jesus’ example. He was busy. He knew what it was like to have a full agenda and the pull of a busy schedule. Yet He always found time to get alone with His Father. Luke says he “often withdrew to the wilderness to pray.” The Greek word Luke used means “to retire quietly, to go back.” Jesus would get away from the pressure, the noise, and the demands on his life. He would “go back” or return to what He needed: time alone with His heavenly Father. I like to think of it as Jesus stopping His activity in order to recharge His battery. He went back to the source of power and energy for His life. He stopped giving long enough to get what He so desperately needed: the comfort, guidance, love and soul-satisfying presence of God. Jesus spent virtually every waking moment of every day giving Himself away to people. He taught, healed, discipled, debated, and ministered to countless people. He walked great distances. He answered countless questions from His disciples. He fended off accusations from the Pharisees. He felt stress. He grew tired. He knew what it was like to reach the end of the day and to feel like He had nothing left to give. So He got away. He returned to the one place where He could what He so desperately needed. He went to His Father’s side in prayer.
Prayer for Jesus was not a ritual to be performed or a spiritual discipline to be mastered. It was a non-negotiable necessity for living life as a human being on this planet. It was a joy and a welcome respite from the pressures of everyday life. He longed to get away in prayer. He looked forward to it. It was not something He squeezed into His crowded schedule reluctantly or begrudgingly. Prayer wasn’t a hassle to Jesus. It was the highlight of His day. Which is why He often spent all night in prayer. Like a visit with a long-lost friend, Jesus lost track of time when He talked with His Father. Their conversations would go well into the night and when the sun came up, it would find them still going strong. In his gospel account, John gives us a glimpse into what those conversations were like. In chapter 17 he records the prayer Jesus prayed just hours before His betrayal, arrest and trials. It reveals the intimacy and intensity that characterized Jesus’ prayer life. His prayers were passionate and personal. They were anything but ritualistic, repetitive, and rote. His prayers came from His heart and illustrate His deep love for and dependence upon His Father. Jesus got alone to pray because He knew that what He needed was unavailable anywhere else. He needed His Father to hear Him, guide Him, encourage Him, strengthen Him, love Him, and reassure Him of the unshakable nature of His divine plan. Prayer for Jesus was like the calm before the storm. He knew what was coming. He also knew He needed time alone with His Father if He was going to accomplish what was required of Him in the hours ahead. For Jesus, prayer was the pause that refreshes. It recharged, renewed, and reinvigorated His commitment to His Father’s will for His life. Prayer was a way of returning to the reality of who He was and the purpose for His presence on earth.
Sometimes we can lose sight of why we’re on this planet. We can begin to believe our busyness defines who we are and dictates our very purpose for living. But time alone with God will refocus our attention on the eternal instead of the temporal. It is in prayer that we are reminded that there is more to this life than meetings, car pools, appointments, accomplishments and energy-draining activities. We are eternal creatures created to have a relationship with God. We have souls that require sustenance that can’t be found anywhere but in time spent with God. Sleep may restore our bodies, but our souls need the spiritual recharging available only from our heavenly Father. Like Jesus, we need to set aside time to get alone with God. We need to reconnect, recharge and reestablish our relationship with the one who made us and who alone can sustain us. So why not take time today for a prayer pause? You won’t regret it.