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
We’re all busy people with days filled with places to go and people to see. Taking time to get away with God to pray likely gets pushed to the bottom of the schedule for the day. We see in the Gospels that Jesus was a very busy man with a full and demanding schedule. Yet, this did not stop him from praying, for though He was the God of the Universe, He still required prayer to be in relationship with the Father. We find Him praying in every step of His ministry, from His baptism through His death. If we are struggling with knowing how to cultivate a consistent life of prayer, we need only look at Jesus who is the best demonstration of how we are to pursue a life of intimate prayer with the Father.
As Jesus’ ministry grew, so did His fame, to the point that it was difficult for Him to find time to be alone. These opportunities to get away did not present themselves to Him; He had to make the time and find a place. We read that Jesus would often get up early or stay up all night praying. He would withdraw on a regular basis from people in order to pray. We can take two lessons from this: to grow in our relationship with God, we must make time and get away, and that in taking time to get alone, we don’t multitask God. Have you ever sat in a coffee shop and observed people around you? How often do you see couples or friends sitting across a table from each other, but they are interacting more with their smartphones than each other? This is not the kind of relationship God wants with us. If we want His full attention, He must have ours. So, when you get away to pray, leave your distractions behind.
Also, when Jesus got away to pray, He really got away. Luke says that He would consistently withdraw to “desolate places” to pray. He would find a place to be alone, even if it meant climbing a mountain. When you pray alone, it makes prayer about you and God. Jesus taught His disciples that they were not to pray like the hypocrites who prayed in public just to be praised by others, but instead, to “go into your room, and close the door and pray to your Father who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:6). When we pray to be seen by others, the praise of others is our only reward, but when we pray to God in secret, we receive the reward of God Himself!
Jesus also shows us that when we get away to be alone with God, we are to come messy. What does this mean? It means we come to Him as whoever we are that day, with whatever we’re feeling, with whatever sins we struggle. We are real with God. Often times we try to re-create ourselves in prayer to be more spiritual or put-together before God instead of being the real, messy person we are. Click to Tweet We should feel the freedom for this kind of transparency because He already knows everything about us and still desires to hear from us. So, leave nothing between you and God when you get alone with Him.
Jesus modeled this attitude of prayer when He was in the Garden of Gethsemane before His impending arrest in Matthew 26. This time we get a glimpse into His intense emotions. We see a man broken before the Father. His very soul was sorrowful and troubled. He falls on His face in agony, knowing what is about to occur. He doesn’t put on a face before God, pretending to have it all together. He begs God, three times, to take the cup away from Him, despairing less over the agony of the cross than the torture of being separated from the Father’s presence. Jesus displays a broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17) for us and we can be assured that just as God provided for His Son’s heart at that very moment (Luke 22:43), He will do the same for us when we take time to get alone, get away, and get messy with Him.
Ministry Fellow at Dartmouth
Julia was raised in Austin, Texas, but left Longhorn country to attend Texas A&M. She earned a bachelor's in English Literature and minor in Dance. After college she felt called to New York City where she worked as a nanny before coming on staff with a church in the city. There she led in several prayer initiatives, women's ministry, and discipleship. After four years, God called her to Massachusetts to attend seminary at Gordon-Conwell. She graduated with not only a Master of Divinity, but also an amazing husband, Chase, by her side.
Julia enjoys running outdoors, sharing coffee and meals with friends, and perfecting the art of Texas BBQ with Chase. She and Chase welcomed their first son, Emmett, into the world in April 2017.