But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
Crowds were hearing about Him. They clamored for His touch – healing, cleansing, authoritative.
But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Luke highlights this aspect of Jesus’ purposeful life. In the midst of chaos, real needs and demands, He withdrew — regularly and often — to pray.
He is our Master and our Teacher and He was also living the perfect, sinless life. He withdrew to pray — to find communion (experience intimacy with the Father and the Holy Spirit). He withdrew to clarify and refresh. He may also have withdrawn to leave us a pattern. If He, sinless and perfect, did this, what do I need to do in the midst of chaos and demands? Are my demands greater than His? What makes me hesitant to let go of these demands and withdraw to a lonely place and pray? He is inviting and instructing me to do so … often.
I will confess one thing. There are times, more often than not, with two crazy-normal boys in my home when I do think I am the very key to stability in the home. If I withdraw and pray, what on earth will happen short of 9-1-1 being called in following a great “idea” of my younger son being implemented in my absence? But that is not the only thing. There is more. I fill my time with other things. I could withdraw and pray, but I do something else. I let the mundane overshadow the essential and eternal. Somehow we all lean towards filling a jug to the brim with water and wondering why we can’t fit all the big rocks in on top. What happens when we put the rocks in first? There is a miraculous truth about time: when we put the important in first, there is room for what else needs to be added. But, when we get it backwards, we just don’t have room.
Just before this revelation about the importance of prayer and solitude in Jesus’ earthly life, we see the people ask Jesus to stay with them and He tells them, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” Jesus knew His purpose. He wasn’t swayed. He graciously gave to people, but He didn’t let their agenda and expectations pull Him away from His purpose. He knew why He was sent. Do I know why I am sent? What is my purpose? Surely Jesus states several purposes of His own earthly life in various parts of Scripture and He lived out each of these. But, He remains true to this: I can do only what I see my Father doing. I don’t think we can fairly say that Jesus had an “edge” on us so that somehow we just can’t do what He did. Yes, He had communion with the Father in a way we can only hope to have, but He has promised us that we too can have access to the Spirit and the Father as He does. To have that access we must do what He did. We must withdraw to lonely places and pray often.
Jesus did what He saw the Father doing. God is still doing something in our midst. He is actively doing things all around each of us. He is engaged in the world — not just the world “over there,” but the world right here. Right here is an opportunity to do what we see the Father doing and in your life, in my life, He has very specific opportunities for each of us. We only need eyes to see and a heart to join Him. He invites us to include Him and to be included. This is communion and this is purpose: to engage with Him as we wipe snotty noses or listen to the simple things our children want to share with us or hear a friend pour out a burden or smile at someone who is downcast. It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering. God said whoever gives a cup of water in His name will not lose their reward. We join Him when we settle into our calling here-and-now. We can be in Him and with Him where we are because He has planted us here for such a time as this. We can bring Him to those around us merely by abiding and listening and then responding. This is living by rhythm and it is the abundant life He came to give us.