Our Prayer Model

“And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone” (Matthew 14:23).

“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” (Mark 1:35).

When we talk about imitating Jesus in prayer, we are often guided to Matthew 6:9-13, the Lord’s Prayer. However, I think we overlook other important characteristics of how Jesus modeled a prayerful life.

Throughout the Gospels are examples of Jesus withdrawing from the crowds to seek solitude so He and the Father can commune through prayer (Luke 5:16; 6:12; Mark 1:35; Matthew 26:36) and directs us to do the same (Matthew 6:5-6). Reflect on what His earthly ministry must have been like: crowds were following Him everywhere, desiring not just to see Him but to seek His touch to heal their many infirmities. The burden of these crowds rested on Jesus alone—in addition to teaching and preparing His disciples to carry on His mission once He was gone. Yet He found the time to draw away in solitude for prayer. Greek scholars suggest that the construct of Luke 5:16 (“But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.”) indicates this was a continual practice and might be translated as saying “regularly withdrawing and praying”.

The question for us is: Do we have more demands on our time than Jesus did?

In His humanity, Jesus found the need for renewal and for preparation of His mission and thus modeled the behavior and attitude we all should develop in our own spiritual journey. I am the first to admit a severe lacking in this area of my life. While I pray in silence throughout my day (multi-tasking no less), Aside from rising early in the morning for study, I have not learned to seek solitude to focus strictly on my relationship with Him.

As with many of my other posts in this blog, please never consider me not in need of the things I write. I have much room for growth in all areas, and if anything I have written makes it sound like I am above the matter, please forgive me. The writing I do is very cathartic for me as well and has been a blessing in helping me to recognize my own needs for growth.

So how do we develop a time for such solitude? Like any other habit we wish to develop, we must be intentional. Whether it is half a day, an hour, or 15 minutes, I believe that every one of us could find an opportunity to set aside such time. If we have spouses, significant others, or family members in the house, we must request them to honor such a time. If there isn’t a quiet spot in the house, then be intentional about finding one. A good walk admiring God’s creation might be just the solution.

Allowing time for silence and solitude in today’s world runs contrary to societal demands. It’s not practiced much by parents and likely not taught to children. The need for a constant barrage of entertainment choices seems to define good parenting nowadays. But also in our own lives, how tied we are now to our smartphones and the constant need to check email, text, and Facebook out of fear of being out of the loop.

For many of us, once we have found silence, our minds begin to race. So many distracting thoughts enter our minds that in our attempt at a solitary moment with God we instead are running through a list of things we need to get done when this is over or what we need to pick up from the store later today.

My advice on this, is when we have found the time for a silent retreat from the world and a time to focus on God, find a favorite Scriptural verse (perhaps Psalm 46:10) and focus on it and let it lead you into a humble prayer. Turn your phone off. Seek Him through prayer and then allow the quiet solitude for Him to respond. If you do not hear Him, do not lose hope. Continue this practice until it becomes a habit you dare not allow to be broken.

Let us be intentional in seeking solitude in a time of prayer just as Jesus modeled for us.

“The morning is the gate of the day, and should be well guarded with prayer. It is one end of the thread on which the day's actions are strung, and should be well knotted with devotion. If we felt more the majesty of life we should be more careful of its mornings. He who rushes from his bed to his business and waiteth not to worship is as foolish as though he had not put on his clothes, or cleansed his face, and as unwise as though he dashed into battle without arms or armor. Be it ours to bathe in the softly flowing river of communion with God, before the heat of the wilderness and the burden of the way begin to oppress us.” —Spurgeon.