After he had dismissed [the crowd], he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.
It seems Jesus retreated as a spiritual discipline. At the beginning of his ministry, he fasted for 40 days and was tempted by Satan in the desert (Matthew 4). That too was a solitary place, as in today?s Scripture. We noted before that spiritual disciplines frequently gain strength in combination: one discipline makes another possible or complements another. In today?s passage Jesus combines solitude, retreat, and prayer.
Why does Jesus take two mini-retreats in one day? The tragic news of the death of his cousin John urged him to his first retreat. After that he worked hard all day, healing the sick and feeding 5,000 people. He was weary. So he retreated again, going ?up on a mountainside by himself to pray.?
It is good to imitate Jesus by starting and finishing each day in a mini-retreat, in prayer. Of course, you may pray alone, with friends, or with your spouse.
By the way, whenever Jesus is on a mountain in Matthew, pay close attention. Look what happens on mountains: he is tempted; he preaches, he prays, he is transfigured, he speaks his last words to his disciples. In each instance, Jesus comes and remains close to God by retreating, by praying. So can you.
Tomorrow we look at what Jesus prays on his last retreat. Until then, let?s keep praying.
Dear God of solitude and community, teach us to retreat to you in prayer?with others or only with you. Keep us close to you. Thank you that we are never alone. Amen.
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