Time Apart to Pray
And after Jesus had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. (Matthew 14:23a)
This short, easily overlooked sentence of scripture comes in between the story of Jesus teaching and feeding five thousand and the story of the disciples in a boat buffeted by wind and waves when they see Jesus walking on the water, then Peter leaping out to join Jesus, noticing the strong wind, getting frightened, and sinking. Jesus rescued Peter and admonished him for his little faith, then they joined the disciples in the boat, and the winds ceased.
How similar this is to our lives today! There are many tasks and demands upon us, all exacerbated by figuring out ways through the restrictions and dangers of this pandemic. Whatever we do (or did, if we have lost our job) for a living, even if our “job” is retirement, we need to re-think and re-configure so much of what we do. It takes a huge amount of emotional, psychological, and spiritual energy to navigate our ways through all of this (like needing to provide food for five thousand?).
The challenges we face don’t end with the pandemic either. We are buffeted by the winds and waves of political and cultural seas on all sides. We are often afraid. How do we understand and deal with all the issues we face in our nation and around our world? The needs are huge. Inequality in so many dimensions seem to threaten to overwhelm our small boats of resources. We would love to walk on the water like Jesus does, but the ferocity of the issues surround us. We are afraid. We feel like we are sinking and might drown. Yes, in the story, Peter cries out for Jesus to save him, as do we. Jesus did reach out to help Peter, along with admonishing him about how little faith he had. So too for us?
Yet, in the reading of the miraculous scripture stories, how often do we overlook the one additional act that Jesus did? Even with all the demands on his time or teaching and feeding the multitudes, Jesus took time apart to pray. Even though it meant returning to the boat being buffeted by winds and waves and having to walk across the water to get to the boat, Jesus took time apart to pray.
How often in the frantic flurry of our daily lives do we get so caught up in all that we are doing, do we omit taking time apart for prayer? God is always with us, yet it is the time we take apart in intentional prayer which will sustain us for whatever we have to face in our lives. Even though there still will be many demanding tasks waiting for us after our time in prayer, Jesus teaches us that taking the time to be fully in the presence of God in prayer is life-giving and wind-calming for us.
In the midst of the larger, more impressive stories of the life of Jesus, this one small sentence, this easily overlooked time of prayer, may be the greatest witness of who Jesus is – and of who we are called to be – people who take time to leave the huge tasks we have in our lives and walk away up the mountain with Jesus to pray.
Holy God, in this brief moment of prayer, we offer our whole lives, our whole selves, our whole world, to your life-renewing grace and wind-calming Spirit. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. We pray in the witness and hope Jesus offers. Amen.
May this devotion provide you with a moment of faithful reflection and care. You are involved in ministries of justice and witness, in ministries of standing up and standing with people working to create better systems and communities, in ministries of learning and searching and researching to become more aware and awakened, more technologically savvy and proficient, more virtually and personally present in your churches and communities and world. Each of us who serve as members of your Wisconsin Cabinet write these devotions in grateful prayer for you – for sustenance and buoyancy, for strength and courage, for safety and just actions, and for faith and love to be full and fulfilled in your daily lives. God’s grace and blessings, God’s challenge and healthy discomfort, God’s Spirit and energy be with you, in the hope Christ offers us all.