"Yet the news about [Jesus] spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear Him, and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed."
- Luke 5:15 NIV
Some time ago, I saw a TV program about how focusing our concentration on something can affect our brainwaves. I was most fascinated by a demonstration by a marksman. As he initially pointed his gun at the target, his brainwaves showed little change. But as he took careful aim, tuning out all distractions around him, and focusing intently on the target, his brainwave patterns were radically altered. This test revealed the precise moment when the marksman pulled the trigger, because it indicated the increased intensity of his focus and concentration, just before he fired his weapon.
This demonstration reminded me of how we can "take aim" with our prayers the same way. While it's true that we can pray anywhere, anytime, it's also true that there are times when we need to separate ourselves from the distractions of the world, so that we can focus intently on our communication with God, aiming our prayers with precision. This is one of the reasons why there is simply no substitute for spending time alone with God. Jesus demonstrated this principle perfectly. The Bible records numerous times when the Savior "went off to a solitary place, where He prayed." (Mark 1:35 NIV) If the Son of God needed to spend regular time alone with His Heavenly Father, how much more do we need to? Jesus was a busy Man, and He had important work to accomplish. The verses above in Luke 5 tell us that crowds of people with pressing needs were constantly demanding His attention. Even so, we're told that "Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." The Savior knew how important it was for Him to regularly withdraw from the distractions and pressures of the world around Him, and to focus His attention solely on God.
Just before He went to the cross, when His anxiety and anguish were at their peak, Jesus withdrew to the Garden of Gethsemane to pour out His heart to God. As Christians, we have the same privilege. Jesus told His disciples: "When you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father secretly. Then your Father, who knows all secrets, will reward you." (Matthew 6:6 NLT) When we make the effort to get alone with God, and to prayerfully focus our attention solely on Him, He will reward us with untold blessings that we may not receive any other way. One of these blessings is divine revelation. Mark 4:33-34 (NIV) says: "With many similar parables, Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. But when He was alone with His disciples, He explained everything." This passage not only emphasizes how the Lord uses His Word to speak to us, but it also reveals how He takes special care to explain things more fully to those who spend time alone with Him.
It's been said that "God speaks to those who listen." God wants to speak to every one of His children, but He doesn't want to compete with the radio, TV, or anything else that steals our attention. The devil has seen to it that our lifestyle is embracing more and more noise. And the sad part is that we've become so accustomed to the noise and distractions around us, that we've almost forgotten how pleasant and soothing peace and quiet can be. Several years ago, I began challenging myself to limit the amount of noise and distractions I come in contact with each day. I began to leave the radio off when I was driving my car, and I used this time to pray and fellowship with the Lord. I also began doing household chores in complete silence, using the time to meditate on Scripture, and to sing praises to God. Making these little changes in my life helped me to become more attuned to God's "still, small voice," and to grow closer to Him.
Hearing an encouraging word from a friend, or in a sermon, can really make a difference in our lives. But nothing can impact us the way that hearing a direct word from God can. The Lord is able to speak words of wisdom and comfort like no one else can, and He longs to do exactly that. But we must do our part by making an effort to separate ourselves from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, and to sit quietly in His presence. When we do, the Lord will not only speak to our hearts, but He will also refresh us, and give us rest. The Bible tells us about a time when Jesus and His disciples were so busy that they didn't even have a chance to eat. The Savior told them, "Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." (Mark 6:31-32 NIV) The Lord extends this same invitation to you and to me every day. May we always choose to accept it, so that we may experience God's awesome presence, power, and peace in life-changing ways!
Prayer: Lord, forgive me for the times I've failed to give You first place in my life. Do a new work in my heart, so that I will do whatever it takes to get alone with You for a while each day. Teach me how to tune out the noises and distractions around me, so that I can tune in to Your voice and aim my prayers with precision. Thank You, Lord, for leading me into a deeper and more rewarding relationship with You!
- J. M. Farro