Meditation: “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16).
Suggested Reading: John 17: 1-26.
Reflecting on how to increase possibilities while reducing personal and spiritual challenges in my ministry in the marketplace, I often wonder if the man Jesus could have managed his earthly ministry responsibilities without the discipline of praying. In the figurative sense, some of his battles were not so far removed from my personal experiences in our highly dynamic yet pressurized, at times unpredictable and inhuman corporate playing fields.
I simply cannot imagine Jesus engaging in his earthly ministry without drawing the physical, spiritual, and emotional strength from prayer. Without Jesus’ reliance on the source of power found in prayer, I believe that his “human side” may have signed up for a “mission-impossible.”
Jesus’ resilience in his ministry guided me to study his recorded prayers in the Bible (such as the suggested reading from John 17) more closely. I wanted to find out what enabled Jesus to surrender completely to his Father’s will and mission that inevitably led him to the Cross. I limit my results to 3 characteristics that helped me improve my personal approach to prayer in order to fill it with more impact.
1. Jesus prayed with authority that gave his prayers unequalled power.
As Christians we have the rare privilege that Jesus passed that authority to us. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit we can pray with the greatest self-confidence for the ministry God has called us into.
2. Jesus prayed for other believers.
When I studied John 17 (v. 13-15), I made the interesting discovery that Jesus narrowed the circle of those he prayed for. First of all, he prayed for those God had given to him (v. 6,9). In a second step, Jesus lifted those people up who would believe in him through the message of the disciples (v. 20, 21). I believe that this approach adds quality to my prayers for new believers and their “spiritual survival” in the sometimes harsh realities of corporate life.
3. Jesus prayed in solitude and silence.
Jesus preferred and recommended prayer in solitude (Luke 6:12; Matthew 6:6): “But when you pray, go to your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.” He often withdrew from the crowd to solitary places like the mountainside (Luke 5:16), sometimes even without the knowledge of his disciples. To have that exclusivity of solitude and silence, Jesus even chose a specific time of day: “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 (Mark 1:35).
I discovered the benefits of his disciplined approach purposely seeking solitude and silence for prayer:
- Solitude and silence help me to fully concentrate on God’s word.
- Solitude and silence allow me to listen attentively to what God has to say.
- Solitude and silence deepen the intensity and earnestness of my prayers.
I conclude that prayer has the same non-negotiable component for us as for Jesus Christ. There are many things we can easily do without in our daily routine, but we cannot and must not do without prayer!
4. Jesus prayed according to his life-rhthym.
But how do we incorporate prayer as a non-negotiable habit into each day before we venture out to be witnesses? Jesus’ prayer life suggests that this habit is in some measure connected with one’s personality and life-rhythm, one’s specific personal needs and ministry requirements. Therefore I would find it somewhat presumptuous to define a “ready-to-wear” solution for someone else. Yet I can at least share two important factors from my life that made it much easier to make prayer a non-negotiable part of my daily agenda: the issue of “time” and the aspect of “location.”
Even if it sounds a bit inappropriate, I had to “make time for God” in my increasingly busy work schedule. To set aside that exclusive time slot for prayer and studying the Word of God, I eventually had to sacrifice some sleep. My best chances are the very early morning hours. I never regretted this step! I am convinced that the quality of my performance at work and serving our workplace small group “Christians@telekom” depend largely on my dedication to prayer and Bible study during those early morning hours.
I designated a special corner in my living room for my private conversations with God. Others might find that needed solitude in their cozy kitchen or study, or they commune well with God in nature. Depending on one’s personality and ministry situation some might even fall into that exceptional category of people who hear God’s voice in the craziest humdrum. Well, I don’t! I need that biblical solitude and silence to pray, contemplate, and listen to God.
How do I manage ‘time” and “location” in light of my business travels? That usually requires some creativity. Two examples: The early hours in hotel rooms work by and large quite well. I have also discovered that our international airport in Frankfurt has two chapels that have become a little safe haven prior to an overseas’ trip. Seek out chapels in airports.
After recollecting my thoughts on the importance of prayer for the workplace, the four examples from Jesus’ prayer life, and my personal experiences, the question of whether a habit of praying based on Jesus’ model is really worth the effort may remain. I cannot ever answer that satisfactorily for other Christians. But in his book Life from the Up Side, J. Ellsworth Kalas says something that may encourage us to try following Jesus’ model: because Jesus “once said a very daring, almost outrageous thing about himself: ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life’ (John 14.6). That is, he was saying, ‘I am the plot. Without me, life is flat and thin, and dreadfully ‘realistic,’ but I give it purpose, meaning, and eternal value.”
Purpose, meaning, and eternal value come into our lives, when we truly celebrate this discipline of praying by making it our daily habit. That can be challenging and frustrating at times. More often than that praying is a glorious and joyful experience. We must remember: Jesus himself often withdrew to lonely places and prayed (Luke 5:16).
Jesus’ commitment to this intimate exchange with the Father serves as our model. His dedication to this spiritual discipline enabled Jesus to surrender completely to his Father’s will and mission. He received unequalled power, resilience, and authority to fulfill his earthly ministry that ended at the cross. There and then the door opened for us to embrace purpose, meaning, and eternal value, a life with a plot. So allow nothing in your earthly ministry to keep you from making prayer and contemplation your daily habit!