One of things that jumps off the pages of the gospels is how often Jesus paused, stepped back, and took time to be alone in order to draw closer to God. The gospels record over and again that Jesus withdrew to a deserted place to pray. (Mark 1:35; 6:31, 45–46; Luke 4:42; 5:16; 6:12; Matthew 26:38–42). It makes me wonder, if even Jesus needed time to be alone with the Father, how much more do we?
Over the centuries, seasoned disciples of Jesus all point to this basic and fundamental reality that we need to find a deserted place to pray if we hope to engage the world compassionately like Jesus.
For in times of solitude and prayer we encounter more deeply our dignity and uniqueness as persons in God’s image; we experience our brokenness and deep need; we discover we are not alone; we find the Father graciously drawing us to himself, assuring us that we are loved and forgiven; and we recognize the Spirit inviting us to join in on Jesus’ healing and mending mission in the world and in our community.
We commonly associate this deserted place with spiritual retreat. James Martin describes retreat this way,
“Essentially, a retreat means taking time away from the busy-ness of everyday life in order to focus more on your spiritual life. A retreat is an extended period of time spent with God in prayer.”
An extended time might mean an hour or two during an afternoon, or it could refer to a day or a week or month or even longer. Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1–11; Mark 1:12–13; Luke 4:1–13). Jesus also spent the early morning in prayer (Mark 1:35) or an hour or two in the evening in prayer (Matthew 26: 36–46). Sometimes we retreat by ourselves, while other times we retreat with a group of fellow travelers on the journey. However we do it, we are attempting to make space in our schedules and our hearts to focus on our spiritual lives.
Where are you making space in your life to retreat
and pray and focus on your life with the Lord?