Part Three: The Place of Prayer
In these days He went out to the mountain to pray... (Luke 6:12a)
Thus far in our look at the prayer life of the Lord Jesus, we have seen the priority of prayer and the posture of prayer. In part 3 we are looking at the place of prayer. Where did our Lord pray and where should we be praying as we seek to imitate Him? Now, before I continue, there is an important point that I need to make. When I speak about posture and now the location of our time of prayer, I am not speaking of every single time that we pray. Judging from some of the questions I have received in relation to these blog posts, it is obvious that I haven’t been clear on that particular point.
Believers are to be constantly praying. We are, in fact, to pray without ceasing. Since that is the case, there will be multiple times of spontaneous prayer throughout our day. Surely there are times when you say a quick prayer asking for wisdom in regard to a certain situation that has arisen during the day. Undoubtedly, there are also times when you pray while you are at work. One of my favorite times to pray is while I am alone and driving down the road. During these times of spontaneous prayer we are certainly not concerned with posture or location. God forbid any of you bow your head and close your eyes while you are driving!
Thus, when I am speaking of posture and location, I am not speaking of spontaneous prayers, but of your time of purposeful prayer. The Bible contains examples of these two types of prayers of the saints. We find an example of spontaneous prayer in the case of Nehemiah, for example. When Nehemiah appeared before King Artaxerxes to speak of his desire to rebuild in Judah, we are told that he prayed: “And the king said to me, ‘Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of heart.’ Then I was very much afraid. I said to the king, ‘Let the king live forever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?’ Then the king said to me, ‘What are you requesting?’ So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, ‘If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it’.”
Notice what Nehemiah did. As he was about to answer the king’s question, he prayed to the God of heaven. Surely he was seeking wisdom from the Lord in that moment, but Nehemiah didn’t go find a room off to the side wherein he prostrated himself before the Lord! No, he prayed spontaneously in silence, probably in his mind, seeking wisdom from the Lord on how to answer the king. Christ did the same thing outside of the tomb of Lazarus in John 11:41-42. After telling them to remove the stone, Jesus paused and prayed: “And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard Me. I knew that you always hear Me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent Me’.”
Here is Jesus before raising Lazarus from the dead speaking with the Father about those standing around Him. His desire is that they would believe that the Father had indeed sent Him and thus He paused to pray spontaneously. I am sure that you have found yourself in a situation many times when you had something on your mind and you weren’t thinking of location or posture, you just simply offered up a prayer to the Lord. You should be doing that and, actually, you should be doing that every single day. In fact, you should be praying like that all throughout the day. This is an example of praying without ceasing.
However, there are also to be times of communion with the Lord. There is to be a time in your day when you are meeting with the Lord in prayer, and it is those times of intentional, focused prayer, that is the subject of this blog. When we look at our text, we find Jesus praying in this way. It was at night, and Jesus desired to be with His Father in prayer. What did He do? He went out to the mountain to pray. In other words, in His time of prayer, Jesus went off alone to pray to the Father. This isn’t the only time the Bible says that Jesus did this. In Mark’s gospel, following the healing of Peter’s mother in law, Mark tells us that “rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, He departed and went out to a desolate place, and there He prayed” (Mark 1:35). This is clearly something that Jesus did often. Earlier in Luke’s gospel we are told that “[Jesus] would withdraw to desolate places and pray” (Luke 5:16). In Matthew’s gospel we find the same idea: “After He had dismissed the crowds, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray” (Matthew 14:23). Jesus was always going off by Himself to pray.
What is the location of Jesus’ time of purposeful, focused prayer? He was alone. Jesus went to desolate places; He went to the mountain; He went off by Himself to pray. Why? Because in places of solitude there are no distractions. There was no crowd pressing in on Him, there were no curious disciples asking Him questions about His parables or the kingdom, nor were there any sick who needed His compassionate healing. Those things could wait. Jesus needed to be in communion with the Father, and that time of prayer was so important for Him, that He would often go off alone and pray.
What is the pattern for us then? There should be times everyday, I would argue, for focused, purposeful prayer during which we get alone with God. There should be a time when the television is turned off, the phone is put away, and we get off by ourselves, with no distractions, and pray. We need this time to feed our hungry souls! We need the Lord! As I said in part one of this series, we have forgotten how dependent we are upon the Lord, but the fact is that we can do absolutely nothing without Him! But with Him, we can do all things! We must realize this so that we hunger and thirst for the Lord as the deer pants for the water brook. When our soul is thirsty like that, we will make prayer a priority, getting alone with God and prostrating ourselves before Him.
In fact, Jesus commanded this of us: “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:6). Yes, I know the context there is praying without hypocrisy. However, it is clear that the example of Christ is prayer in solitude and I do not believe that it is interpreted wrongly when I conclude that Jesus is giving us instruction for how we are to pray in times of purposeful prayer. We are to go into our closets, we are to get alone with God for that is what Christ did routinely. Should we not follow that example?
Listen to me, friends, you need both aspects of prayer mentioned here. You should be praying without ceasing. There should be times everyday of spontaneous prayer; times when you lift a prayer of praise to the Lord for some worshipful thought you have had about Him, or times when you ask Him for wisdom, or times when you see the ambulance drive by and you pray for whatever has happened and what those involved may be dealing with in that time. You should be praying like that.
But there should also be a time every day when you are intentional about prayer. At that time, you eliminate all distractions and you go to a place where you are alone with the Lord. You put the kids to bed, you tell your spouse that you’re going to be alone for a while, you leave your cell phone in the other room (unless you’re using the Prayer Mate app!) and you pray! You pray passionately; you pray intentionally; you pray seeking the Lord for whatever is on your heart that day. Prayer like this is not only a time of supplication, making your requests known to Him, but it is also a time of worship, for the Lord delights in the prayers of His people.
“O Lord, I call upon You; hasten to me! Give ear to my voice when I call to You! Let my prayer be counted as incense before You, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice” (Psalm 141:1-2).
So if you haven’t already, go, get alone with the Lord, assume a posture of reverence, and pray!