February 26, 2008

Jesus Retreats to Pray

Matthew 14:22-23

After he had dismissed [the crowd], he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.
Matthew 14:23


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.

About the author — James and Rose Dekker

James C. Dekker is the pastor of Covenant Christian Reformed Church in St. Catharines, Ontario. Previously he served other congregations in Alberta and Ontario. Rose Dekker serves as a refugee coordinator for the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee in Canada. She also serves as a certified spiritual director. The Dekkers were missionaries for nine years with Christian Reformed World Missions, serving in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Venezuela, and Cuba.

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