Jesus began his public ministry of teaching and healing in the synagogue on the Sabbath at Capernaum, and the people were astonished at his power and authority. He, then, was invited to the home of Simon and Andrew, where he healed Simon's mother of a serious fever. His fame spread immediately, people brought their sick to the door and he healed them – physically and spiritually.
Mark records, "Very early in the morning, Jesus... went off to a solitary place, where he prayed." While the city slept, Jesus chose the early morning and a solitary place for meditation and prayer. The question is: Did Jesus need to pray? It seems remarkable, considering who Jesus was: "the Son of God, and the only begotten of the Father." Yet, Jesus was "fully man" as well as "fully God", and he needed time alone to commune with God, the Father. We who are his followers are called to follow in his steps. David, the Psalmist wrote: "In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning, I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly." (Psalm 6:3)
Jesus taught and practised solitary prayer. (Matthew 6:6) He found it necessary to rise “very early" and find "a solitary place” to pray. What can we say about our own lives? Can we expect to develop within the kind of moral and spiritual character that loves God and loves our neighbour, unless we, too, cherish the secret place of prayer?
We may take it as a moral certainty, proven by centuries of human experiences, that unless we hold to a discipline of entering into the secret and inviting presence of God, we incur the risk of sinking to any level that the world offers, and drifting with any current that happens to be popular.
You and I live in a compromising and conforming world. By and large, the world is not our friend. In fact, James wrote: "Friendship with the world means enmity against God?" (James 4:4) Jesus said: "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Matthew 26:41) So, having received freely the gift of eternal life through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, how do we present ourselves to be transformed daily by "the good, pleasing and perfect will of God?" (Romans 12:2)
Some may remember Catherine Marshall, the widow of Peter Marshall. In 1959, she remarried and became a mother to three stepchildren. She and her new husband found it hard to find time daily to pray and commune with God. So, they began what they called the Coffee Pot Experiment, in which, a timed percolator would wake them up automatically every morning at 6 a.m. They presented themselves to God in prayer and devotions and began to experience the peace of God throughout the day. She concluded: "The best time for prayer isn't to be found: it has to be made! "
As Christians in a busy world, we will never find the time, unless we make the time daily to be alone with God. The choice is between the indulgence of the flesh and the discipline of the spirit, between the self-denial of more sleep and the freshest and best hours of the day given to God.
Johnson Oatman Jr. expressed this biblical truth beautifully in the hymn: "Alone With God:" The chorus is as follows:
"Alone with God, the world forbidden,
Alone with God, O blest retreat!
Alone with God, and in Him hidden;
To hold with Him communion sweet." Amen.
Wallace H. Jordan is Baptist pastor. A guest sermon runs regularly in Saturday’s Guardian and is provided through Christian Communications.