Augustine: What can be more excellent than prayer; what is more profitable to our life; what sweeter to our souls; what more sublime, in the course of our whole life, than the practice of prayer!
The beginning of Jesus’ ministry on earth was begun with prayer. As Jesus was baptized marking the beginning of His ministry He prayed. And as He was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Him like a dove (Luke 3:21,22).
During many times in His life, Jesus withdrew from His disciples and the crowds to be alone to pray. He often went up on a mountainside or went to solitary or lonely places to pray. Sometimes He even went to pray very early in the morning, while it was still dark (Matthew 14:23, Mark 1:35, 6:46, Luke 5:16).
These habits of Jesus teach us some important truths about prayer. Though we may pray while in a group or in a prayer meeting, there is a great need to get alone to pray. In fact Philip Graham Ryken asks ‘Are you a hypocrite? ‘ and then says ‘One way to tell is to compare the amount of time you spend in private prayer to the amount of time you spend in public prayer.’ As we seen some days ago D. A. Carson observes, “The person who prays more in public than in private reveals that he is less interested in God’s approval than in human praise. Not piety but a reputation for piety is his concern.” We can’t build our relationship with God solely on prayer meetings and church services, but need to spend time with him daily in prayer. It is in such undisturbed quietness (Psalm 23:2) that our souls will be ready for sweet communion with God our Father. Often God does not shout His messages to us, but gently whispers them to us (1 Kings 19:12).
At times, being in quiet and solitary places alone is not enough. We need to spend more time with God in prayer. This is evident from the way Jesus went about His task of choosing the twelve apostles. Jesus spent a whole night on a mountainside in prayer before He chose the twelve apostles (Luke 6:12). It is very clear from this that Jesus attached such great importance to prayer. Jesus had to choose the 12 the next day. This was very important because the apostles were to be with Him for the rest of His public ministry. It was to them He would teach the truths of the kingdom of God. They were the ones who would later take the gospel to different parts of the earth.
We would do really well to follow His example. Let us spend more time in prayer when we have to take great decisions in life, let us seek God’s face more earnestly. It amazing how we often only seek Him when everything goes wrong after we tried to do things our own way. God will guide us in our decisions that we may not need to regret later in life.
Jesus taught us how to pray (Matthew 6:9-13), told us to always pray and not give up (Luke 18:1-8), encourages us to ask, seek, and knock (Matthew 7:7-11), got up early to pray (Mark 1:35), modelled how to pray (John 17:1-26), and in the Garden of Gethsemane prayed in preparation for His arrest and death (Mark 14:32-42). Jesus modelled prayer and expected His followers to pray.