Struggling in Prayer
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
There are different kinds of weariness. Sometimes the cure is to rest and sleep. Often we see Jesus doing just that. He knew when His body needed the refreshment of sleep. But there is another kind of weariness; a weariness of the soul that only prayer can heal. That is the kind of weariness Jesus was fighting on that particular morning.
The Bible tells that He went to a “solitary place”. But the text, literally, speaks of an eremos topos, a wilderness or desert place. Using this word gives us the sense not simply of His being alone, of finding solitude – but of being surrounded by the desolation and danger of the wilderness. Mark’s Gospel tells us that during His temptation in the wilderness Jesus was “with the wild beasts” (1:13 NKJV). The place to which Jesus retreats for prayer is menacing and unsafe. It is a picture of the real world, unveiled. Jesus leaves the warmth of His bed and the companionship of His friends and wanders into the wilderness, seeking in the midst of it the familiarity of His Father. There are two points, it seems that we can make of all this.
First, we should consider the nature of the One who rises so early to spend the morning in prayer. He is the , who bears the fullness of the image of the Father. He is the One who is always obedient, who always hears and does just what His Father tells Him to do. And yet, many times He found it necessary to spend the entire night in prayer. His relationship with the Father was everything to Jesus. And prayer seems to be the foundation of that relationship. If it was so important for Jesus to spend large blocks of time in prayer, how much more should we be spending that kind of time speaking and, more importantly, listening to the Father. Second, the fact that the wilderness was the place Jesus sought for prayer should tell those of us who seek only comfort and safety that God is best found and heard in the midst of terror and turmoil. We want to flee, to retreat to the sanctuary for prayer. And there is nothing wrong with that. But Jesus shows us there is more to prayer than comfort and security. There is also the wrestling in the wilderness with what sickens us and scares us to death. There is a struggle with God and His will for us that might indeed leave us limping like Jacob after the battle is over. But it is precisely the limp, the woundedness, that we may most need to experience and that the world most needs to see in us.
This morning God is calling us to come to Him in the desert, to meet with Him in the most arid place of our souls. He is asking us to follow and to find His Son there in the middle of the danger and turmoil that we know exists outside our door. He is inviting us to join, with Jesus, in the battle that is prayer. He invites us to take off the gloves, to lean into the fight with all we are. Only then can we stand alongside His Son as He sends us out to speak His Word and do His will.