Why Pray in the Wilderness?
The crowds pressed against Jesus. Mark writes (Mark 3:20) that the demand to see Jesus was so high he did not have time to eat. Luke reveals that the more Jesus did the more widely-known he became. Every audience included desperate people with unmet needs looking for solutions.
But the news about Him was spreading even farther, and large crowds were gathering to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses. Luke 5:15 NASB
Those climbing to the lofty heights of stardom would see this as the timely moment for Jesus to hire assistants to enhance his image and manage his brand. He should secure an agent who could deliver the most lucrative opportunities. A team of ghost writers must compile the autobiography and drive the finished work onto the best-seller lists to capitalize on the public’s hunger to know his story. And these steps must be taken before fickle fame flames out.
But Jesus? He took another path, one that seems odd for a high-visibility person on the leading edge of public awareness.
But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray. Luke 5:16 NASB
Jesus adhered to a personal code of conduct that included finding a time and a place where he could pray. And this intentional practice intrigued his closest companions.
After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone. Matthew 14:23 NASB
In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there. Mark 1:35 NASB
It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. Luke 6:12 NASB
If Jesus, the Son of God, needed a consistent prayer life what does that teach for mankind?
1. Find a time to pray.
For a busy person, finding time to pray may be a challenge. Jesus chose to pray at night or before sunrise. That implies he gave up some sleep to have quality time with his Father. Jesus determined that his personal well-being demanded time in prayer, and he established his priorities accordingly.
In his book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald S. Whitney writes, “…of all the Spiritual Disciplines, prayer is second only to the intake of God’s Word in importance.” Whitney also states that “to be like Jesus we must pray.” A consistent prayer life will not flow from thinking strong wishes alone, but from taking tangible steps toward a healthy habit.
2. Find a place to pray.
Interrupt-driven living is a way of life in a world filled with people, chimes, and pop-up reminders. Electronic devices control the agenda and keep the day on track. Communication happens via terse messages where spelling rarely matters. Fast and instant are the watchwords, and silence seems oppressive to many people.
Though the technology has changed, perhaps this snapshot gives an accurate picture of life for those around Jesus. Throngs of people jostled to draw near enough to touch him. The crowds gathered early, grew larger during the day, and remained late. Why did Jesus choose a wilderness location for his prayers? In light of the press of humanity around him perhaps the answer seems obvious.
The wilderness held few distractions. Jesus could be alone with his thoughts as he communed with God. At an unhurried pace he could enjoy the rest and refreshment that prayer would bring.
In the wilderness, away from the hullabaloo of civilization, God’s still, small voice would be more easily discerned.
Finding such a place may prove difficult. Perhaps the wilderness can be a closet reserved for the purpose of prayer, or a bench in the garden, or the kitchen table before the bustle of the day. Maybe a wilderness can be found on a lunch time walk along a quiet street talking with God as the concrete passes underfoot.
F. B. Meyer wrote in The Shepherd Psalm, “There must be pauses and parentheses in all our lives…” Who better to share that pause with than our Father? What better activity than prayer?
Find a time, find your wilderness, and determine to start today.