But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray. (Luke 5:16)
Continually throughout the gospels, we see Jesus withdrawing to desolate places in between serving and it was to spend time in prayer with His Father. How different His effectiveness in ministry would have been if He wouldn’t have intentionally set this time aside.
Often Jesus is thought of as somehow supernaturally more empowered than us when He was here fulfilling His earthly ministry because He is God. But we have to remember that just because He didn’t separate from His deity didn’t mean He wasn’t fully human like us. Yes, He lived perfectly, but He was made to be like us in every respect, so He was tempted in the same ways, He got tired and had to sleep, He got hungry and had to eat, He pooped just like us, etc. Don’t set aside this fact, He is our merciful and faithful High Priest BECAUSE He can relate to our humanness. If you separate His humanness from His deity in your mind, you can’t effectively follow His example and there will be a hindrance in your relationship to Him.
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2:14-15,17-18)
The Old Age Question of Why
This bears the question - Why was He in the habit of withdrawing to pray? And why to desolate places?
Jesus was disciplined in His habit of prayer. He was here to fulfill a mission and that required Him doing and saying what the Father told him. How was He to do that if He wasn’t in the habit of communicating with the Father? He would go to the synagogue and read from the scrolls, the way we read our Bibles; and He had that open line of communication through prayer.
Why He went to desolate places may seem odd in our modern day culture where Christians often pray together and pastors and leaders pray in front of congregations. There isn’t anything wrong with open and public prayer, but Jesus made it obvious that a personal prayer life is necessary to get through our life. When we pray in public, there is inherently an aspect of consciousness before others. In some cases this can create a hypocrisy, as Jesus mentioned in Matthew 6 when He taught His disciples how to pray. When we pray in private, one on one with the Lord, there is the ability to be completely open, honest, and raw with your Creator and when we choose isolated places, it allows us to pray undistracted from outside things and devote the time and attention to talking with God.
The last little tidbit to glean was that Jesus knew when to serve and when to withdraw to pray. Great crowds would gather and while sometimes He did serve them and then withdraw to pray, other times He simply withdrew to prayer first. We don’t need to be constantly serving, but we should always be praying without ceasing.
Implementing the Habit
How often are you praying, and setting aside time not just before meals or bed, but time dedicated just to prayer? If you don’t already have a habit of setting aside time to pray every day, today’s the day to start! I have personally found that having a written prayer list helps me better focus as I sit before the Lord in prayer and bring my requests, intercession, and thanksgiving to Him, and I keep it in my Bible. I encourage you to find what works for you to remember to be in regular prayer with your Father just as Jesus did.
Ultimately, if the sinless Son of God made a habit of praying, then us, as sinful people, need to be in this habit as well.