Solitude In The Evening
After He had dismissed the crowds, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. When it was evening, He was there alone.
It had been a really bad couple of days. Jesus learned that Herod had beheaded His cousin John the Baptist. He tried to get away to grieve, but an enormous crowd of five thousand men- probably a total of twenty thousand, including women and children- followed Him and found Him. Jesus had compassion for them, healed the sick,and fed them miraculously with a boy’s lunch(Matthew 14:10-21). Now He tried again to send them away.
Jesus sent the crowd home, and He sent His disciples to the other side of the lake in a boat. He was finally alone with His thoughts and His sadness about John the Baptist.
There are times in our lives when success distorts our perspective. Success- especially miracles- can be intoxicating. It’s easy to think we have some magical power or that we’re indispensable. But when we feel stressed, we need perspective more than we need one more success. Jesus had His priorities straight. He knew He had to get away so He could feel the weight of the loss of His cousin, sense the Father’s comfort, and prepare for the next day.
His solace and solitude didn’t last long, though. Around three in the morning, the boat carrying the disciples was being blown by a storm. Rising from His grief, He stepped out into the water to help His friends(Matthew 14:25).
No matter what we do, we can’t keep some of the stresses of life away from us. When stress levels reach their highest, we need to carve out time to be alone for a few hours in the evening, in the morning, or whenever we can find the time.
Times of isolation with God will precede times of inspiration we receive from God.
Yesterday we talked about beginning our day with God, asking for His guidance, wisdom and instruction. Today we want to talk about ending our day with God. Jesus bracketed His days with prayer. Each day He began with prayer and each day was ended with prayer. Even the days that were incredible busy were bracketed by prayer if it cost rising early (Mark 1:35) or late in the evening (Matthew 14:23). The outcome of such a life can seen in the stories of the Gospel as we read of the miracles that Christ performed. That life is one worth attaining. Some might say that we could never attain to such heights for they were reserved only for Christ, but that’s not what Christ said. Hear His words:
“I assure you most solemnly say to you, anyone who believes in Me [as Savior] will also do the things that I do; and he will do even greater things than these [in extent and outreach], because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in My name [as My representative], this I will do, so that the Father may be glorified celebrated in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name [as My representative], I will do it.”
We may believe this promise that we, too, can do the works of Jesus, but for most of us the question is, how? How can we as mere human beings do such great things? Because we are so strong or knowledgeable or spiritual? If that’s the case most of us don’t qualify, but Jesus didn’t give that promise to only a select few, He gave it to all of us. That’s why He taught us the necessity of beginning and ending our day with prayer. Just as He went daily to the Father for direction and instruction, so must we. Again listen to His words:
“So Jesus answered them by saying, “I assure you most solemnly say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself [of His own accord], unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever things the Father does, the Son [in His turn] also does in the same way.”
They did not realize [or have the spiritual insight to understand] that He was speaking to them about the Father. I have many things to say and judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and I say to the world [only] the things that I have heard from Him.” They did not realize [or have the spiritual insight to understand] that He was speaking to them about the Father.
So Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man [on the cross], you will know then [without any doubt] that I am , and that I do nothing on My own authority, but I say these things just as My Father taught Me. And He who sent Me is [always] with Me; He has not left Me alone, because I always do what pleases Him.”
Now do we understand what those meetings between Christ and the Father were about? Far too often we make our plans, decide our strategies and coin our own words and far too often they end in failure. I wonder what the outcome would be were we to seriously apply what Jesus taught us about the importance of prayer. Could it be that our words would be different? Would our actions take on more meaning and direction? Would we find our endeavors succeeding more often than not? I wonder the impact we might exert on our world if we were to approach life fresh from the presence of God. Can you and I say that we say what God says or that we do only what God directs us to do?
It wasn’t just Jesus who lived that way, the disciples saw the power of that way of living and they too, made time in prayer their priority. Nothing could be more important than time with God. Even when the church grew and the need of ministry increased, they insisted that their prayer time couldn’t be sacrificed. The congregation met each situation with prayer, seeking guidance and wisdom and God provided. When threatened, they prayed for boldness and God answered with signs and wonders. When divided, they prayed and God spoke wisdom and unity was restored. When direction was needed, they prayed and God called Paul and Barnabas as missionaries to the Gentiles.
All through the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, those who made prayer their priority found the help, direction, and strength of God for every task and every situation. Maybe it’s time for us as the people of God to give the Jesus method of prayer and living a chance and we just might be surprised with the outcome.
Dr. John Thompson