“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16 NIV). Today these words jumped off the page. The two in particular, “lonely places”, struck me in very different way than ever before. There is so much about this passage that raises some questions for me. It should cause all of us to pause and think about our own prayer life.
Where did Jesus go?
What did Jesus pray about?
I suppose the first question doesn’t matter as much as the others but I’m curious and I want to know. What defines a lonely place? Is it all by yourself? Is it away from the people we know? We all know we can be around people yet still be alone. People may find it odd that I find my lonely place in a coffee shop. They would say I am not alone, but for whatever reason it is a place that I can focus. I can block out the noise around me. As Jesus found, the world around him constantly wanted him. They went after him to find him when he tried to get away. They often found him. It’s almost as if they knew where to look. So did he go to the same place? If we knew would this change the way we approach prayer? Maybe it is left out because the author didn’t know. Or maybe it just doesn’t matter. Maybe the key it to develop a rhythm in our lives so that we have sacred places. Places where we can hear from God.
Jesus had such a clarity of focus for his life and God’s will for his life because of these practices. We live in a world that is constantly grabbing for our attention. It is easier to hear from God when there is no noise, but the key is to learn to hear from God in the noise and chaos that is always around us.
The next question that puzzles me is How often? Why can’t we just get a “everyday Jesus went to such and such place…”? Who gives us that kind of sweeping statement? OFTEN. What is that supposed to mean? Luke you are not helping us out here. We want a formula, a system, a linear path. If we can just put this into a quick little 1+2+3=6 formula, then we know what to do and we know what the results are. The reality is life doesn’t work like that. Neither does the Holy Spirit. We can’t put God into a formula or system. His ways are beyond our ways.
The very point is OFTEN! Jesus knew he needed to be with his Father often and hear his voice and he knew the benefits that derive from those moments. It would be safe to say Jesus had this keen sense of awareness that he needed those moments before he even got close to the place where he was sensing he was distant from him. We often go to God we when feel the need to regain our sense of purpose. Jesus often went to his Father to maintain his sense of purpose. We often go to God when we feel distance from him. Jesus often went to his Father to stay close to him. Notice the difference. His words now pierce our hearts. “The Father and I are one” (John 10:30 NIV). You only become like someone (or one with someone) by spending a tremendous amount of time with them. Yes, Jesus has an edge on us. He was there with God in the beginning. He has always been with the Father. All the more reason for us to find our lonely place more often, so that we may know him and be like him.
This then leads to the final question. What did Jesus pray about? We know about his prayer in the Garden. We know his response to his disciples that asked him to teach them how to pray. But what were these moments like? What did he pray about when he was away from everyone in the lonely places? Clearly the disciples saw something very different about the way Jesus prayed or what he was like as a result of those moments. What they had learned in the past was no longer enough. They longed for something more. Teach us to pray! In Luke 11 it describes the moment right after Jesus finished praying. He gave them a gift in that moment. Read the exchange that happened in Luke 11:1-13. It’s powerful.
There is a moment Jesus uses the words “shameless audacity” (NIV version). He used a story to refer to our desire to be in desperate need of something. In the greek it is this shameless persistence to ask for the things we need most to live. Food. His closing statement brings it all home. “how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13 NIV). Our need for the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives is often more than we realize. It is the very thing that makes our souls alive to the very will of God.
Here is the gift. In that lonely place we can boldly approach God’s throne with shameless audacity often so that we can be filled with His Holy Spirit, which make us alive to God’s will, unites us to His purpose, frees us from our sin, reminds us we are his precious children, so that we may know Him and serve Him with all that we have.
So go find your lonely place. Go hear from the Father. Let him breathe life into you.