“And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there” (Matthew 14:23).
IT WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN EASY TO DO, BUT JESUS MADE THE SACRIFICES NECESSARY TO SPEND TIME IN SOLITUDE, ALONE WITH HIS FATHER. We can hardly comprehend the demands that others made on His time, nor can we imagine how tired He must have been some of those nights when He stayed up to pray. But apparently there was great value for Him in solitude. Even He, the very Son of God, needed significant time alone with the Father.
But think of it in the other direction. Even in terms of human relationships, we understand that we confer honor on those with whom we are willing to spend private time, and we withhold honor from those that we’re only willing to be with in a group. What would you think if you were in a group with someone you had always wanted to talk to privately, and the group left the room? There you are, finally face to face, and after greeting you with a rather formalistic hello, that person says, “Well, I’d better be going now.” How would you feel? How do you think God feels?
We need to hear again the words of W. D. Longstaff’s familiar old hymn, “Take Time to Be Holy”: “Take time to be holy, the world rushes on; spend much time in secret with Jesus alone.” In His teaching on prayer, Jesus emphasized the need for private, solitary prayer (Matthew 6:6). Yes, it’s true that public prayer is permitted, and we have plenty of examples of Christians praying together in Acts. But let us not fail to heed Jesus’ emphasis on private prayer. That is where our greatest growth comes from.
It is especially in times of pain and sorrow that we need to spend time alone with the Lord. We may also need counsel and companionship, it’s true, but why are we so afraid for someone who is suffering to be alone? Are we afraid they might actually think about what is happening, see its significance, and open their hearts to God more fully? I may be wrong, but I think it’s in solitude that suffering has its greatest opportunity to bless us.
“In time of trouble go not out of yourself to seek for aid; for the whole benefit of trial consists in silence, patience, rest, and resignation. In this condition divine strength is found for the hard warfare because God himself fights for the soul” (Miguel de Molinos).