“Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16).
We can only imagine how rich were the times of communion that Jesus enjoyed with His Father. What depths of intimacy did Jesus and the Father experience in those precious occasions? Of course Jesus lived in continuous fellowship with His Father. There was never a moment when Jesus was “offline,” spiritually speaking.
Unfortunately, that is not the case for us. Struggling as we do with worldly or sinful distractions, we can easily let the days slip by without turning aside to enjoy time alone with God.
In Luke 5:16 we gain some valuable insight into the make-up of a successful devotional experience with the Lord.
Notice that Jesus “withdrew.” He understood how the distractions and interruptions of the daily life can crowd out the most important meeting we ever have … our meeting with God. It requires a determination to turn aside from the things that normally consume our attention so we can focus on the Lord. If Jesus, the eternal Son of God, needed time alone with the Father, how dare we think that we can get by without it?
Jesus would “often” slip away for time alone with God. This was no sporadic activity. We read on numerous occasions in the New Testament when Jesus went off to spend time with the Father. In the Sermon on the Mount the Lord Jesus gave careful instructions to His disciples about time alone with the Father in prayer. I cannot imagine Jesus teaching His disciples to do something He didn’t do habitually.
In order to be consistent in our time alone with God we should have a set time that we routinely meet Him. For many, the best time is in the mornings. Granted, to do this means one having to get out of bed earlier than usual, or spending less time reading the morning paper. If you have an early flight to catch at the airport, you set your alarm to get up early so you won’t miss the flight. Isn’t time with God more important? Others prefer a different time for their devotions. The important thing is to make it a habit.
This may be particularly challenging for mothers with small children. Creativity and commitment will help you to find time to meet God on a regular basis.
Jesus withdrew to “lonely places” for this essential time alone with God. The word translated “lonely places” means deserted, uninhabited placeS. Jesus knew that He needed at times to be away from other people so He could focus His heart and mind on His heavenly Father. To do this meant finding a place where He would not be disturbed by others.
To go along with the habit of meeting God at a set time, it is also good to have a set place. Find a quiet place in your house where you can keep your Bible, prayer list and other devotional resources. Imagine God sitting in the chair next to you as you spend time with Him. In time that place will become “holy ground” for you.
Luke 5:16 says that Jesus sought time alone with the Father in order pray. Jesus, limited as He was in the human body and experience, vitally depended on His Father for strength. Jesus accessed this strength in prayer. We can also imagine that Jesus had the Scriptures memorized. After all, Jesus was and is the Word of God. When He was alone praying in the Wilderness of Temptation (Matthew 4) Jesus answered each of Satan’s temptations with Scripture that He knew from memory. Jesus was daily immersed in the truth of God’s Word.
The two most important components to a successful devotional life are the Word of God and prayer. Have a systematic plan for reading Scripture, whether it is in small or large portions. Often some kind of devotional classic can help to focus our thinking on the Word of God. In 2012 my plan is to read through the entire Bible which takes me every day to the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs. Additionally I am reading the devotional classic Faith’s Checkbook by Charles H. Spurgeon.
After a time of reading, studying and meditating on Scripture, our faith should be sufficiently recharged for us to enter into fervent prayer. While much of our praying will be spontaneous, Spirit-led conversation with the Father, it is also helpful to have a systematic plan for our praying. An ongoing prayer list is essential. The list might include people and things that we pray about daily or weekly. A prayer list strengthens our faith as we are able to note when the prayers have been answered.
No appointment we have each day is more important that our appointment with God when we come into His presence, feed on His Word, and pour out our hearts to Him in prayer. Make it a priority.