“In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.” (Mark 1:35, NASB)
“But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.” (Luke5:16, NASB)
Have you ever wished that Jesus had volunteered the details of those prayers during that time of intimacy and interaction with His Father? I have. But I came across a segment from Bill Johnson’s book, Face to Face with God which, I think, begins to answer that question.
Johnson writes, “I love the privilege of spending time with God – the more the better. Being still before Him is an often-underrated activity by those of us who like to accomplish and achieve things in prayer for the King and His kingdom. This is how it looks for me. Sometimes I’ll take just a few minutes in the middle of the workday for His pleasure. I get before the Lord and say something to this effect, ‘God I’m here, but I’m not going to ask for anything or perform in any way for You. I’m just going to sit here simply as an object of Your love and let You love me.’ This is a big deal for me, because my usual prayer time is about 75% worship and 25% petition. Not doing stuff is sometimes hard…in this kind of prayer time, I don’t go before Him to get answers and directions. I am there simply to experience His love. Whether it is five minutes or five hours, taking the time with God outside of the need for Christian performance is one of the most important decisions we can make… But I have found that in that place of communion and love it is His pleasure to give revelation that satisfies our hearts…the center of the Christian life is passion for God, and it is this passion that defines the boundaries of our lives…”*
Jesus knew and lived what Bill is describing. It was indeed Jesus’ passion for God, the Father – and for us, our identity and relationship with Him – that defined the boundaries of His Life.
I find it hard to think of Jesus becoming “an earthen vessel”…yet that is exactly what He did. He bled. He cried. He became physically worn and hungry during journeys, thirsty and dusty. He was subject to body-wrenching and physically-draining anger and sense of loss, regret, the full emotional spectrum by which we often find ourselves buffeted.
Yet – or, perhaps, because of these very factors – His prayer time strengthened Him, set a timeless example, taught crucial lessons: “For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves…” (2 Cor. 4:6-7, NASB)
Light shining out of darkness. Let me stop there for just a minute. Jesus frequently proclaimed, “…The Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.” (John 5:19, NASB)
There, in that “place of communion and love,” I believe Jesus most quickly perceived “whatever the Father does.”
And, so it is with us. But there is more. Because we are “always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body,” we are able to stand resolutely and, like Paul, state “we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…” (2 Cor. 4:5-10, NASB)
Johnson continued his article by pointing out, “Self-control is the by-product of living in covenant with God. To demonstrate the character trait of true self-control, one must be able to illustrate what it looks like to live in perfect harmony with the values of the Spirit of God. We also show self-control in the way we protect our connection with God from other influences that would distract and dissuade us.”
Re-read that last thought: “protect our connection with God from other influences that would distract and dissuade us.”
Gosh….does anyone else feel like influences that “distract and dissuade” us would fall into that description Paul used for “schemes of the devil”? (Eph. 6:10) After Paul lists the various components of “the full armor of God,” the very next verse exhorts, “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit…” (Eph.6:18)
And Jesus, Himself, “would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.”
John wrote, “The Light shines in the darkness…” (John 1:5) The very next line states, “and the darkness did not overpower it.”
Jesus knew the secret of passion for God and not being overpowered by the darkness. He is willing to share it with us each day.