Scripture: Luke 5:15-16 CEB
“News of him spread even more and huge crowds gathered to listen and to be healed from their illnesses. But Jesus would withdraw to deserted places for prayer.”
Did you ever build a fort? As a kid we probably all have built some form of fort. It usually involved blankets draped over furniture to build a temporary fort. If you were fortunate you may have even had a tree fort in your backyard. Where I grew up kids would go down to the woods and dig out underground forts. It was a place you could go where no one else was allowed, unless you allowed them in. I had two places I called forts growing up. One was in my room. I had bunk beds growing up and I would drape blankets over the rails of the upper bunk to make a fort of the lower bunk. The other was in our basement. I had taken a corner of one of the rooms in the basement and would set up a fort down there. Both of my fort locations were designed to get away from everything and everyone. I would read or play or whatever I wanted without anyone else interrupting.
I don’t believe that Jesus was in the practice of making forts. However, I do believe that he was in the practice of making space where there would be no interruptions. Rather than play or read, Jesus used this space in his life to pray. It was a part of the rhythm of Jesus’ life. He would be in ministry with a lot of people, with his disciples, with crowds of people, and in many different places. Then, as Luke records, “ … Jesus would withdraw to deserted places for prayer.” The ebb and flow of ministry and solitude was essential to Jesus. He would empty himself all day in ministry healing the sick, casting out demons, teaching, and proclaiming the good news. This all served to deplete Jesus of both physical and spiritual energy. This is why Jesus would go to deserted places and pray. It was to fill his spiritual tank again. The time Jesus spent in prayer helped him to get physical rest and to recharge spiritually as he talked with God, the Father.
Maybe it’s time we start building forts again! There is something very essential about withdrawing to deserted places for prayer. In my own life I have several places that work for me. At church I withdraw regularly to our prayer room off the sanctuary. It is a place specifically designed to be quiet and prayerful. At times I will withdraw to a place like Starbucks, which I know is never deserted, and find a corner to pray and just lose myself in the atmosphere of community. Sometimes my deserted place is my car as I am traveling to and from work, the hospital, or wherever I am heading. There are many ways we can find our deserted places in this world with very few actual deserted places. Have you ever thought about this? Where are your deserted places?
Today the challenge is to take stock of where we pray. Do you have a deserted place or two? If not, plan out where your new deserted place will be. Make time to withdraw to this place at least once a day. Schedule in your time in your deserted place. Perhaps on your calendar you schedule an appointment to withdraw and be in prayer. You will be surprised what a few minutes in your deserted place will do for you physically and spiritually. The busyness and chaos that can come from the alternative is undesirable. It would be an awesome thing if people could say of our daily routine that, “(Insert your name) would withdraw to deserted places for prayer.” May you create time in your deserted places today to spend time in prayer.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for all of the amazing people, places, and activities in my life. I know that I can allow all of these to crowd out my time with you. I want to make time for you today in my deserted place. Give me the discipline to plan this time and to listen to your Holy Spirit to know when I need to get away. In the name of Jesus. Amen.