“Jesus Prays in a Solitary Place
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: ‘Everyone is looking for you!’
“Jesus replied, ‘Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.’ So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.”
“Have a place for secret prayer. Jesus had select places for communion with God, and so should we. We need often to retire to some spot, however humble, where we can be alone with God. . . . In the secret place of prayer, where no eye but God's can see, no ear but His can hear, we may pour out our most hidden desires and longings to the Father of infinite pity, and in the hush and silence of the soul that voice which never fails to answer the cry of human need will speak to our hearts. . . .”
“In secret prayer the soul should be laid bare to the inspecting eye of God. . . . How precious is secret prayer—the soul communing with God! Secret prayer is to be heard only by the prayer-hearing God. No curious ear is to receive the burden of petitions. Calmly, yet fervently, the soul is to reach out after God; and sweet and abiding will be the influence emanating from Him who sees in secret, whose ear is open to the prayer arising from the heart. He who in simple faith holds communion with God will gather to himself divine rays of light to strengthen and sustain him in the conflict with Satan.”
Viktor Frankl miraculously endured the seasons of horror in the Nazi death camps during World War II. One of his most basic needs, however, was to experience quiet moments of solitude. Even under the most grueling circumstances he would find a sweet release and the presence of mind to endure the hardship and the horror that confronted him daily.
Viktor Frankl recalls finding opportunities to take five-minute retreats of quietness on the way to and from tasks in the camp. He worked in a place where dozens of people were crowded into one spot, so he seized any chance he had to retreat behind the mud hut. There, surrounded by barbed wire and covered by a canvas tarp, corpses were thrown for disposal. Amid the stench of rotting bodies and the constant reminder of death, he would sit alone and gaze out at the Bavarian countryside.
In the quietness of those moments, he would leave behind the hopelessness of the death camps and be renewed enough to survive until the next opportunity to spend five more minutes came along. He recalls the dire circumstances and the reminders of death all around him. While the sight and the stench of decaying bodies might have been difficult to ignore in his moments of solitude, more distracting than anything else were the footsteps of guards coming, marking the end of his time alone with God.
“Our heavenly Father waits to bestow upon us the fullness of His blessing. It is our privilege to drink largely at the fountain of boundless love. What a wonder it is that we pray so little! God is ready and willing to hear the sincere prayer of the humblest of His children, and yet there is much manifest reluctance on our part to make known our wants to God. What can the angels of heaven think of poor helpless human beings, who are subject to temptation, when God's heart of infinite love yearns toward them, ready to give them more than they can ask or think, and yet they pray so little and have so little faith? The angels love to bow before God; they love to be near Him. They regard communion with God as their highest joy; and yet the children of earth, who need so much the help that God only can give, seem satisfied to walk without the light of His Spirit, the companionship of His presence.
“The darkness of the evil one encloses those who neglect to pray. The whispered temptations of the enemy entice them to sin; and it is all because they do not make use of the privileges that God has given them in the divine appointment of prayer. Why should the sons and daughters of God be reluctant to pray, when prayer is the key in the hand of faith to unlock heaven's storehouse, where are treasured the boundless resources of Omnipotence? Without unceasing prayer and diligent watching we are in danger of growing careless and of deviating from the right path. The adversary seeks continually to obstruct the way to the mercy seat, that we may not by earnest supplication and faith obtain grace and power to resist temptation.
“There are certain conditions upon which we may expect that God will hear and answer our prayers. One of the first of these is that we feel our need of help from Him. He has promised, ‘I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground.’ Isaiah 44:3. Those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, who long after God, may be sure that they will be filled. The heart must be open to the Spirit's influence, or God's blessing cannot be received.
“Our great need is itself an argument and pleads most eloquently in our behalf. But the Lord is to be sought unto to do these things for us. He says, ‘Ask, and it shall be given you.’ And ‘He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?’ Matthew 7:7; Romans 8:32.
“If we regard iniquity in our hearts, if we cling to any known sin, the Lord will not hear us; but the prayer of the penitent, contrite soul is always accepted. When all known wrongs are righted, we may believe that God will answer our petitions. Our own merit will never commend us to the favor of God; it is the worthiness of Jesus that will save us, His blood that will cleanse us; yet we have a work to do in complying with the conditions of acceptance.”
“The idea that prayer is not essential is one of Satan's most successful devices to ruin souls. Prayer is communion with God, the Fountain of wisdom, the Source of strength, and peace, and happiness.”
“Let all who visit Christians see that the hour of prayer is the most precious, the most sacred, and the happiest hour of the day. These seasons of devotion exert a refining, elevating influence upon all who participate in them. They bring a peace and rest grateful to the spirit.”
Jenna is in the eighth grade. She writes: “I invited my neighbor Cassandra to spend the weekend at my house while her parents were away. I take time to reflect and pray every night before I go to bed. Cassandra noticed I was praying and said her mother does the same thing as a result of yoga classes. “It’s all the same,” she said. “I didn’t know what to say. I don’t want her to think that spending time with God is the same thing as yoga. I don’t want to offend her by sounding stuck up about my religion. What do I say? Should I just leave it alone? It just seemed like a good opportunity to share and I think I blew it.”
Go to http://guidemagazine.org/rtf to post your answers. Your thoughts and feelings may seem clearer to you when you write them down, so we’ve provided space for you here as well. You may also wish to share them with your class later. Be up-front and honest. #####
“The last like the first sentence of the Lord's Prayer, points to our Father as above all power and authority and every name that is named. The Saviour beheld the years that stretched out before His disciples, not, as they had dreamed, lying in the sunshine of worldly prosperity and honor, but dark with the tempests of human hatred and satanic wrath. Amid national strife and ruin, the steps of the disciples would be beset with perils, and often their hearts would be oppressed by fear. They were to see Jerusalem a desolation, the temple swept away, its worship forever ended, and Israel scattered to all lands, like wrecks on a desert shore. Jesus said, ‘Ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars.’ ‘Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.’ Matthew 24:6-8. Yet Christ's followers were not to fear that their hope was lost or that God had forsaken the earth. The power and the glory belong unto Him whose great purposes would still move on unthwarted toward their consummation. In the prayer that breathes their daily wants, the disciples of Christ were directed to look above all the power and dominion of evil, unto the Lord their God, whose kingdom ruleth over all and who is their Father and everlasting Friend.
“The ruin of Jerusalem was a symbol of the final ruin that shall overwhelm the world. The prophecies that received a partial fulfillment in the overthrow of Jerusalem have a more direct application to the last days. We are now standing on the threshold of great and solemn events. A crisis is before us, such as the world has never witnessed. And sweetly to us, as to the first disciples, comes the assurance that God's kingdom ruleth over all. The program of coming events is in the hands of our Maker. The Majesty of heaven has the destiny of nations, as well as the concerns of His church, in His own charge. The divine Instructor is saying to every agent in the accomplishment of His plans, as He said to Cyrus, ‘I girded thee, though thou hast not known Me.’ Isaiah 45:5.
“In the vision of the prophet Ezekiel there was the appearance of a hand beneath the wings of the cherubim. This is to teach His servants that it is divine power which gives them success. Those whom God employs as His messengers are not to feel that His work is dependent upon them. Finite beings are not left to carry this burden of responsibility. He who slumbers not, who is continually at work for the accomplishment of His designs, will carry forward His own work. He will thwart the purposes of wicked men, and will bring to confusion the counsels of those who plot mischief against His people. He who is the King, the Lord of hosts, sitteth between the cherubim, and amid the strife and tumult of nations He guards His children still. He who ruleth in the heavens is our Saviour. He measures every trial, He watches the furnace fire that must test every soul. When the strongholds of kings shall be overthrown, when the arrows of wrath shall strike through the hearts of His enemies, His people will be safe in His hands.”
“Prayer and faith are closely allied, and they need to be studied together. In the prayer of faith there is a divine science; it is a science that everyone who would make his lifework a success must understand. Christ says, ‘What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.’ Mark 11:24. He makes it plain that our asking must be according to God's will; we must ask for the things that He has promised, and whatever we receive must be used in doing His will. The conditions met, the promise is unequivocal.
“For the pardon of sin, for the Holy Spirit, for a Christ like temper, for wisdom and strength to do His work, for any gift He has promised, we may ask; then we are to believe that we receive, and return thanks to God that we have received.
“We need look for no outward evidence of the blessing. The gift is in the promise, and we may go about our work assured that what God has promised He is able to perform, and that the gift, which we already possess, will be realized when we need it most.”
“No other life was ever so crowded with labor and responsibility as was that of Jesus; yet how often He was found in prayer! How constant was His communion with God! Again and again in the history of His earthly life are found records such as these: ‘Rising up a great while before day, He went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.’ ‘Great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities. And He withdrew Himself into the wilderness, and prayed.’ ‘And it came to pass in those days, that He went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.’ Mark 1:35; Luke 5:15, 16; 6:12.”
Solitude with God starts out as awkward. It’s OK to feel awkward, but anyone who stays still long enough soon discovers there is a well of joy within arm’s reach for those who wait for the quiet to come.
Too busy? Who isn’t? Look at how busy Jesus was in Mark 1. The whole chapter is a fast-paced late-night flurry of things to do. But He crawls out of bed before the sun comes up because more than sleep He needs to rest His soul in the hands of the Father. Somehow He gets a message from God in those moments and His agenda says, “Let’s move on to the next village—we have work to do.”
Let’s be upfront and straightforward—time with God is a precious privilege. Should you have to be sold on the idea? What are the obstacles? A few minutes of television? A phone call cut five minutes short? One fewer e-mail? What would our church be like if teenagers were to charge instead of retreat? Imagine a whole generation of teenagers who sell out to Jesus completely, stealing away moments of a busy life to get in touch with the One who bought them eternal life. Now, that’s not a retreat. That’s a full-out charge!
“Christ's words of compassion are spoken to His workers today just as surely as they were spoken to His disciples. ‘Come ye yourselves apart, . . . and rest awhile,’ He says to those who are worn and weary. It is not wise to be always under the strain of work and excitement, even in ministering to men's spiritual needs; for in this way personal piety is neglected, and the powers of mind and soul and body are overtaxed. Self-denial is required of the disciples of Christ, and sacrifices must be made; but care must also be exercised lest through their overzeal Satan take advantage of the weakness of humanity, and the work of God be marred.
“In the estimation of the rabbis it was the sum of religion to be always in a bustle of activity. They depended upon some outward performance to show their superior piety. Thus they separated their souls from God, and built themselves up in self-sufficiency. The same dangers still exist. As activity increases and men become successful in doing any work for God, there is danger of trusting to human plans and methods. There is a tendency to pray less, and to have less faith. Like the disciples, we are in danger of losing sight of our dependence on God, and seeking to make a savior of our activity. We need to look constantly to Jesus, realizing that it is His power which does the work. While we are to labor earnestly for the salvation of the lost, we must also take time for meditation, for prayer, and for the study of the word of God. Only the work accomplished with much prayer, and sanctified by the merit of Christ, will in the end prove to have been efficient for good.
Look up the following texts in the New International Version of the Bible, and fill in the blanks.
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.”
“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”
“The way to the throne of God is always open. You cannot always be on your knees in prayer, but your silent petitions may constantly ascend to God for strength and guidance. When tempted, as you will be, you may flee to the secret place of the Most High. His everlasting arms will be underneath you.
“We come to God by special invitation, and He waits to welcome us to His audience chamber. . . . We may be admitted into closest intimacy and communion with God.”
“This lesson to the disciples is applicable to every Christian to the end of time. Devotion to God does not consist in groans and sighs and a sad countenance. Many give to the world wrong impressions in regard to the religion of the Bible by complaining of trials and crosses and hardships. The true servants of the heavenly King are the most happy people in the world. While their service is earnest and sincere, they carry with them the rays of the Sun of Righteousness, to lighten the path heavenward for all those who will walk in it. The religious life is one of conflict and trial; yet of spiritual happiness and joy” (Ellen G. White, Signs of the Times, December 3, 1896).
The image of God waiting for us is powerful. The King waiting for His subjects to recognize Him. Some people can push this idea of devotions so hard you try to stay in touch mainly out of guilt. God is not interested in “devotions” as much as He is interested in “devotion.” Devotions have a beginning and an end. Devotion is continual.
In the Bible we clearly see Jesus hanging out with sinners all the time. His reputation was tarnished with such phrases as “Why does He eat and drink with sinners?” The religious leaders snarled at Jesus, but His Father was smiling. Jesus also pushed His way into moments of solitude because no one, not even Jesus, could handle the rat race without quiet moments with God. And God smiles when we demonstrate our love to Him with even a moment or two.
Sometimes we need longer, but now that as a child of God you are invited to join Him. He waits. He’ll patiently watch you. When you hear Him call you, give Him some time. Ask God to remind you if you need help. He is more interested in moments alone with you than anything else. You will be amazed at how much He can do for you when He can get your attention even for a little while.
“And He said, ‘Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.’ And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire [a sound of gentle stillness and] a still, small voice.”
Schedule or spontaneously spend some time apart in the quietness with God. You might want to focus on one thing at a time and journal some of your thoughts and experiences as you go throughout the week.
Ear: What did you hear? ###
Bible: What verses came to your mind/did you read? ###
Heart: What honest communication did you have with God from your heart? ###
Peace: Describe how it made you feel. ###
Eye: What did you see in God, you or others as you were alone? ###