“But now even more the report about him went abroad,
and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities.
But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.”
Luke 4:15-16 (ESV)
Astounding when you think of it. It has always been a “head-scratcher” to me, one of those burn-out-some-synaptic-pathways-in-my-brain kind of reflections to think about God the Son communing in prayer with God the Father. Stunning.
But here’s the personal kicker that I draw from these verses. If Jesus, my Savior, felt this need, I need to cultivate the same need by the same process, myself.
A personal story: As our church grew, from 4 to 40 to 100 to 150, to 200 to 300 and then to 400 and 500 and crossed the 600 threshold, it was important for me to carve out more time for prayer. During our first decade, when the church was going through that particular growth spurt, we also planted six other churches, giving away 3, 5, 40, 10, 8 and 119 people to seed those churches with leaders and resource. And with each, we supported them with what dollars and other resources and counsel we could at the time.
We did what we could in each situation. We made a lot of mistakes, but by the grace of God, 6 of those 7 churches (counting the mother church) continue to this day and have viable gospel ministries in their communities. Lost people are being found, found people are being discipled and discipled people continue to be sent into the world to change it for the glory of God.
But as the mother church grew (and as we gave talented, godly people away), ministry got more complicated. There were still more people to reach, more people to care for, more people to disciple, more problems to fix, more gaps to fill. At times, it could get overwhelming.
During all that time, based on the passages like this and the wise counsel of some spiritual mentors, I maintained the following disciplines and I commend them to you:
Take a day a month and devote it to prayer. No work but the work of prayer.
Carve out time for 2-4, two day (minimum), “get-away-from-everything prayer retreats” a year.
Recruit some prayer warriors to pray for your walk with God and marriage. (Keep those two relationships healthy and everything else will be fine.)
Be brutally honest with God in your prayer times.
Pray out loud.
I’m praying for you.