All throughout the gospels, we see the writers demonstrate a pattern in the life of Jesus that regularly includes getting away from the crowds and the busyness to stop and spend time in prayer.
Our reading today is an example of this. In Matthew 14.23, Jesus has sent his disciples on ahead of him and “he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.”
Question: Why did Jesus need to get away and spend time alone in prayer?
You would think that someone who was the Son of God would be so inherently connected to God that he would have a “built in” sense of knowing what to do and thus eliminate the need for prayer. (Such thinking may tell us more about our own view of prayer than Jesus’ nature, by the way.) Perhaps this is true, but I think there is more to it than that.
One might also make the argument that Jesus was providing an example for us to live by. Someone once said that the greatest single argument to pray is that Jesus prayed and this would certainly be an example of that. This also may be true, but it places prayer within a category of checklist items to be accomplished, which misses the point altogether.
No, I think the reason Jesus spent time alone in prayer, especially in Matthew 14, was that he needed to refocus or re-center his life so as not to be distracted by the distractions bombarding him at every turn.
Look at what all happened to Jesus within today’s reading:
- He had just found out John had been killed
- Crowds followed him to remote areas, even when he was trying to get away and be alone
- He was faced with the challenge of feeding over 5,000 people
- The crowds would continue to seek him out so that wherever he went, people were present seeking to be healed
It doesn’t take us long to figure out that Jesus’ schedule was overwhelming. He HAD to get away in order to maintain a focus on what was most important, otherwise the crowds would take over his time and efforts.
Stop for a moment to look at your calendar. How much “white space” is left on today? This week? How easy is it for you to refocus on what is really most important in your life?
Jesus gives you an example on how to accomplish that, by the way.
Why do you think Joseph tells his brothers to “not quarrel about this along the way?” What did he know that perhaps we or his brothers did not?
How do you show compassion for people around you?
What can you praise and exalt God for today?
If someone asked you for the one key to life, how would you answer them? How does your answer compare to that of the Proverb writer, that his instructions are the key to life?