Alone to pray

Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Luke 5:15-16 NIV


Jesus needed time alone. He needed time to pray. But which was more important? Time alone or time to pray?

We hear that introverts “recharge alone” while extroverts “recharge with others.” Was Jesus an introvert? Did he withdraw to recover and recharge? Was it self preservation that drove him to “lonely places?” He was certainly under a lot of pressure from day to day.

But Jesus was not a loner. He was clearly an intentionally relational person who spent every day with the twelve disciples he had chosen, and who apparently loved being with people. He did not avoid human contact. He was not shy. This sounds more like an extrovert than an introvert. I suspect that he was able to recharge with his friends as well as he could alone.

So I believe there was more to his withdrawing to lonely places than simple recovery and self preservation. I believe these times were necessary for the continuation of his ministry. Because when he was alone he could pray, undistracted and uninterrupted. He needed prayer more than he needed rest, more than he needed time with friends, more than he needed food. Prayer was his lifeblood, and it seems he could pray more easily when he was alone.

What does it really mean to pray? What was Jesus doing? I believe he was waiting on God for direction. He was interceding for people and situations he had encountered. He was meditating on the greatness and goodness of God. All this was easier without the clamor of people’s needs all around him, without continual demands.

We live busy lives. As doctors we are, like Jesus, surrounded by people all the time, people who make continuous demands. We get tired. It is not difficult to end up burnt out, which can lead to hardness and cynicism. It is hard to maintain direction and focus. It is easy to take the path of least resistance, to become doctors not directed by God, but by the prevailing worldview, or our own vanity. We are constantly bombarded by information that tells us how to think, what to do, how to manage the problems people present to us, how to be good doctors. The pressure to conform is great, and all the greater of it is not balanced by other inputs.

Our time is limited and every day is quickly filled with tasks and information. How much undistracted time do we give to God to direct us in our work? How much time do we spend interceding for the people and situations we encounter? How much time simply meditating on the God we want to imitate, in order to be like him?

Perhaps we doctors need to follow Jesus’ example and withdraw often to lonely places. Daily? If we are keen to follow the leading of God and understand his plans and purposes for our lives then we need to not just withdraw, but pray.

I have not built this habit into my life. I wonder if I did whether I would be more effective in my work, a better doctor? I wonder if the gift of healing would grow stronger in me? I wonder if I would have more energy, more insight, more wisdom, more compassion, more love, than I I have now? I wonder if life as a doctor would be more satisfying and more sustainable?

There is no way I know of to achieve this other than to make a decision and “just do it.” Why don’t we? Perhaps because we don’t understand how much we need to. Perhaps because we believe we can do it alone. Perhaps because we don’t see the relevance of God to our work and lives.

Jesus saw the need. He did not imagine that he could make it alone. Do we think we are better, stronger, smarter, wiser than him?

I need to follow Jesus’ example. Do you?

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