- Eldon Peterson
Finding a Lonely Place
The Oregon coast is a special place for my wife and me. It is where we met and where we honeymooned. My best memories as a child were days spent camping near the ocean and exploring the beaches. More than anything else, when we moved to Utah 33 years ago, we miss not being near the ocean. Fortunately, our daughter now lives in one of those small coastal towns.
The beach offers us both beauty and solitude. It doesn’t matter if the weather is stormy or clear it reminds us of God’s great sustaining and endless power. I am able to put aside the distractions of life listening to the thundering surf. We need places where we can go to experience God’s peace and put off our day-to-day worries. Where is your quiet place? I hope that yours is closer than the Pacific Ocean!
We are not alone in our need for a quiet place, for as we read in the gospels, “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16) Both Mark and Luke’s gospels tell us that following a day of ministry or before making a difficult decision, Jesus would commonly go to a quiet place to pray.
Jesus was in constant contact with the Father through prayer. In order to find time alone with Him, Jesus would often need to get up very early to pray. In Mark’s parallel account, we read, “And early in the morning, while it was still dark, He arose and went out and departed to a lonely place, and was praying there.” (Mark 1:35) If Jesus sought solitude for prayer and refreshment, how much more is this true for Christians today?
We must be careful not to become so busy that our life turns into a flurry of activity leaving no room for quiet fellowship alone with God. No matter how much we need to do, we will be wise to make time for prayer. What can I learn from Jesus’ example? While I may want to head to the beach for some alone time, the truth is that I don’t need to drive 14 hours to my favorite beach to find a quiet place with God – He is as close to me as a prayer. Consider some examples.
The gospels tell how Jesus went out to pray both alone and with his disciples. He sought solitude in prayer when crowds pursued him and when he was harassed by demons. Following one time like this, Luke writes, “And when day came, He departed to a lonely place; and the multitudes were searching for Him, and came to Him, and tried to keep Him from going away from them.” (Luke 4:42) When Jesus needed to collect his thoughts, to be empowered, he withdrew to pray.
Equally important, prior to making a difficult decisions Jesus would retreat to places and pray. Before Jesus chose the 12, we find him praying. “During those days He went out to the mountain to pray and spent all night in prayer to God. When daylight came, He summoned His disciples, and He chose 12 of them—He also named them apostles.” (Luke 6:12-13)
Once when Jesus asks Peter, James and John to join him in pray they see his transfiguration. What he was praying about is unknown, but possibly Jesus wanted to give them a glimpse of his glory as he had promised. As Jesus prays, He encounters Moses and Elijah who were alive in heaven with God though long since dead. While on earth Jesus appeared as a man, here the disciples see the glorious radiance that he will have in heaven.
At the garden of Gethsemane, before Jesus goes to the cross to die for our sins, Jesus prays with his disciples one more time. He tells them, "Sit here until I have prayed.” Going further on with Peter, James, and John he tells them, "My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch." And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground, and began praying.” (Mark 14:32-34) Jesus shows how we can be strengthened through prayer.
In considering the importance of prayer, we should remember Paul’s words, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” (Philippians 4:6) If you are in need of hope or encouragement, remember that you do not need to go far away; you only need to come to him in prayer.