One of the associate pastors at our church made an astute observation after he had been with us for about six months. Sitting in a staff meeting he said, “I am amazed that so much gets done in this congregation with so little prayer. Think what could happen if we would spend more time talking to the Lord about His plans for our church.”
He was right. His words were not complimentary, nor did he plan them to be. We spent so much more time planning and relying on our own strength in comparison to the time we spent letting God lead and guide us. I wonder how many great things have been done for the Lord without a lot of time spent in prayer. There are those who say that Luther spent several hours daily on his knees in the heat of the Reformation. I can well imagine this is true.
Time alone with God is an absolute necessity for Christians if they want to grow in their relationship with Him. Jesus is our example. On one particular day, He had preached to thousands of people. Before He sent the multitudes home that evening, He fed five thousand of them from five loaves of bread and two fish. It had been a busy day with much excitement and our Lord was weary. Now it was time to be alone with His Father. He told the disciples to get into a boat and head for the other side of the sea. Then Jesus went up on a mountain side by himself to pray. If Jesus needed to be alone with God, don’t we need the same experience? What do you suppose Jesus talked about with His Father? We don’t know, but it is fun to guess, isn’t it?
During His time on earth, Jesus was “tempted in all parts as we are, yet without sin.” Satan was at Him. The task before Him of going to the cross to die for the world’s sins would be difficult. There would be physical suffering, watching a disciple sell Him for thirty pieces of silver, and another deny Him in His most crucial hour. When Jesus prayed,Ê”Father, if it is possible remove all of this suffering from me, but not my will but Yours be done,” I believe He was praying for strength to be faithful in performing the mission God had sent Him to perform.
Jesus was sinless, therefore He had no sins to confess. In our time alone with the Lord, it is important that we be open in the confession of our sins. It is no time to be defensive trying to rationalize our sinfulness. We don’t know what Jesus prayed there on the mountain, but let me share with you one of my quiet times alone.
A close friend made me angry. We spoke a few harsh words to each other, but left as friends. When I arrived home, the anger was still in my soul, so I sat down and wrote him a letter pointing out how unjust he had been in some of his remarks. Later that day I had my quiet time. Jesus spoke to me through His words recorded in the Bible, “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matthew 5:39).
I prayed, “Forgive me for being so immature in my faith.” I looked at the letter still laying on my desk, read it once more, and threw it in the wastebasket. I left a message on his voice mail asking that he call me. In a few hours he returned my call and two “big boys” laughed about our stupidity in getting so angry. He, too, had discussed this with the Lord in his quiet time.
Back to Jesus’ prayer life that night when He was all alone. I wonder if He didn’t pray for His disciples, especially those who had special problems. There was Judas. He had a love for money. Jesus could have asked the Father to confront Judas with this question, “What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and loses his soul?”Ê
Then He could have interceded for Peter’s temper and prayed,Ê “Help him to learn from old Solomon who once said, ‘A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.'” Peter would be a powerful witness for Christ, but that temper had to be brought under control, and only God could do it, if Peter would let Him.
Before joining His disciples, Jesus could have also talked to God about Thomas who had such a hard time believing all that he was being taught. He had that doubting mind. Thomas was one of those people who had trouble believing anything his mind could not understand.ÊMaybe Jesus prayed, “Lord, help him to learn from that father who once said in Jesus’ presence, ‘I do believe. Help me over my overcome my unbelief.'”
The quiet times give us a marvelous opportunity to pray for our family and friends. It is a time to talk with the Lord about your relationship with your spouse and children. We do have feelings, both positive and negative, as we live in the family circle. Share these feelings with your Savior. It will help you deal realistically with the irritations and empower you to see how these loved ones bless your life in so many wonderful ways.
That time alone with God might not be the most comfortable minutes of the day, but it will make life much easier for you. It will even exceed the comfort you receive after unburdening yourself to a friend you can trust. There’s a lot of baggage that piles up in our souls and minds that is unhealthy to carry around, and those minutes with the Lord is the time to share with Him who has said, “Come, and I will give you rest.”
Then there is that agonizing time when you ask others to join you in prayer about something that is bothering you. Jesus’ prayer time in Gethsemane with Peter, James, and John is a good example of such a meeting. Life gives us those tough times when we need to be with friends and family, lift our voices to God, and pour out the hurts of our soul.
I ran into an old friend one day and asked how things were going.Ê”Oh, Homer,” he replied, “it has been a terrible summer. Our daughter and her three-year-old son were out for a bicycle ride. She was pulling him behind her bicycle when a car ran into them and killed our daughter, but did not seriously injure the child. Our lives will never be the same, but I don’t know what I would have done withoutÊChristian friends praying with and for us.” Support groups are especially meaningful when prayer is a part of the gathering.
In contrast, there are times of prayer which could be called theÊ”happy hour.” This is quite different from the “happy hour” whereÊpeople gather after an emotional day to liven their spirits with a few drinks. In contrast, this is a time when we lift our voicesÊand thank God for all His blessings. Enough of the hours of temptation, frustration, anger, and all the rest that goes with living.
Now we turn our eyes heavenward and thank God for all thoseÊgood things our family, friends, work, health, material possessions, and above all, His saving grace that assures us we are His for all eternity. That was the kind of prayer Paul was thinking about when he wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice.ÊLet your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God,Êwhich transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7). To put it in words some of us better understand, Paul is saying, I sense your presence, Lord.ÊYou are by my side. Thank you that I could bring all of my requests to you. Thanks for that peace which you alone can give. The future is unknown, but it is in Your hands, and so I am secure.
The early Church was used mightily by God. They did not have the resources we have to do minister, but they had the promiseÊthat Christ would always be with them. Grant that we may learn from those early Christians that no matter how many resources are at our fingertips, God alone is our strength, and apart from Him we can do nothing.