Luke 5:16 says, “But Jesus would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.” This is an interesting verse because it is easy to get hung up on the wrong part. Some people see the word “often” and immediately begin thinking about the verse as a scheduled task. There is an inherent tendency to try and decipher what frequency “often” occurs. It could be a few days, once every other week, monthly, and some would try and make a case for maybe yearly, though that would seem a stretch. Getting focused on frequency misses out on the point.
This verse falls in the midst of ministry. The verse before talks about news spreading through the area and large crowds gathering, and the verse after talks about Jesus teaching in a home and healing the man on the mat. The point of the verse in the middle is not to demonstrate how often someone needs to withdraw from ministry to be with the Lord in solitude, but rather to illustrate that Jesus found it necessary to be with His Father in solitude and prayer.
When was the last time you carved out intentional time for prayer? A time when you stopped your work, your ministry, and your entertainment to be alone with God. Like the context of the verse, things requiring our attention will never stop, so we must be intentional about slipping away for the purpose of being alone with God in prayer. This then leads to the second inherent tendency, and that is to focus on the word wilderness.
What is the wilderness? In the most literal sense, it was the uninhabited places, the places where people did not dwell. It was a place free from distractions and disruptions. Some people will insist that the wilderness is the literal place we must go to pray to the Lord. The wilderness might look like the coast, the mountains, or most of Eastern Oregon. While these are all excellent places to go, we must understand that the further the place, the more likely we will delay going since it will require more time and planning. So the focus cannot simply be on location but must consider setting: a place free from distractions and disruptions.
These places have worked their ways into our lives and look different for every person. For some, that is a literal prayer closet; for others, it is an office; perhaps we have even set up our homes to be that place. But the necessity of time spent with the Lord in prayer should make it our priority to create spaces in our lives to go to regularly. Perhaps as you are reading this right now, you find yourself in a space and time that you can stop, put the distractions and disruptions aside, and spend time alone with the Lord in prayer.
Pastor Daniel Lee