I like to ride my bicycle. I enjoy that time alone. I get time to think and sometimes I realize I haven’t even looked around at the countryside that I’ve been riding through. At other times, I love looking out at the vistas, riding along a shady road, or stopping on a bridge over the Grand or the Nith and enjoying the view. Some of those old steel truss bridges have views that probably haven’t changed much in the last hundred years.
But how many of us like to spend time alone – time in thought? Some find it natural while others are uncomfortable with it. And how many have the time or take the time to stop being busy? Yet having time sometimes means – making time.
Jesus was a busy man. For three years he travelled all over Galilee, Samaria, Judea, and even into Gentile areas. He became so popular that at one point He couldn’t even find time to eat. Demands on his time and energy were never ending. He did his best to delegate, training 12 apostles and sending 70 disciples ahead of himself. But the work load was non-stop and the gravity of what he had come to do was staggering.
He had the weight of the world on His shoulders – having come to seek and to save the lost. And it was for that very reason that Jesus found time to be alone – away from the crowds in order to spend time with God. All of the gospel writers say this about Jesus:
“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)
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed”. Mark 1:35 (NIV)
“Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed”. Luke 5:15-16 (NIV). Luke goes on to tell us that Jesus did this often. He did this on purpose – taking time to be with God.
Luke 6:12 (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.”
Here is one of the times where we have some specific idea about what Jesus prayed for. The next morning, Jesus chose twelve of His disciples to have a special relationship with Him, and to carry on after He was gone. These were the apostles. Jesus would certainly have been praying about these men, about who to choose, and for them, that God might open their hearts and minds, while also protecting them.
In that same way, we also ought to pray when we have an important decision to make, or are facing a trying time. And while that is true, it is also true that we ought to pray – at all times.
So it was, that when the time came for Jesus to be crucified, He did what he always had…He prayed. Luke 22:41-42. Luke writes: “And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray…”
There are times when life pretty much forces us to pray. Times of great stress, of uncertainty, and of pain.
In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus knew that He had less than 24 hours to live. And in the time remaining, he would be falsely accused, mocked and whipped, stripped and crucified. He faced pain, shame, and indignity unlike anything in his lifetime. He prepared for that in prayer.
Now if this is what Jesus did… if God’s own Son who had been with God from the beginning, and who knew God’s will and had done it…if He wanted and needed to pray, then how much more do we? How much more time alone with God ought we to spend?
Here are some other biblical instructions about prayer:
- “But when you pray, go into your room, 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 (NIV) Prayer is not for show. Private prayer ought to be private. It is not something that we put on display so that others will think well of us. It is so that things will be well between us and God.
- “The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.” Mark 6:30-34 (NIV).
- We may plan to spend time away with God, but sometimes God sends people to us who need for us to bring them to Him. Sharing the gospel is an exercise in compassion, and perhaps especially at the expense of other spiritual needs and goals. Unforeseen circumstances may change our plans… even as they did for Jesus.
Quiet time focusing on God can be much more than prayer.
- He says, “Be still, and know that I am God…” Psalms 46:10 (NIV)
- “The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD”. Lamentations 3:25-26 (NIV)
- “My soul, wait in silence for God only, For my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be shaken.” Psalms 62:5-6 (NASB)
- “Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.” 1 Kings 19:11-13 (NIV)
- “I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. Psalms 119:15-16 (NIV)
- One of the Greek words for Worship – proskyneō – means to prostrate oneself before another out of honor or reverence. To bow down, prostrate ourselves, humble ourselves before Him, worship Him.
Reasons for Time alone with God
- Time with God – to admit that God is in control, and that we need to wait for His timing.
- Time with God to confess sins that we have overlooked….to ask for forgiveness, cleansing and strength.
- Time with God – to find calm in the midst of the storm. To find God’s peace in our lives.
- Time with God to reflect on his constant presence and salvation.
- Time with God – reading and meditating on His word. Each passage has been written preserved for a reason. Finding God in his word, is what His word if for.
How to find time:
- Jesus got up early, or stayed up late. Once his public life began, his private life shrank. Yet he made time.
- Dedicating a specific time each day will help. Set up an ‘appointment with God’ and keep it.
Sometimes it is only when we are still and quiet that we can hear His voice.