"Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,…"
Reflection from Greg MacDonald:
In this passage, Jesus demonstrates that we need to intentionally make time for prayer every day regardless of what else is going on and that we should pray privately in order to give full attention to God.
Prior to this passage, Jesus had learned that John the Baptist had been killed and when Jesus tried to be by himself, the crowds of people followed him. As always, Jesus had compassion for them and healed their sick. He then performed another miracle by feeding the 5,000 with the five loafs and two fish. After all were satisfied, Jesus is in a hurry to move on – he needed to be alone to pray. He “immediately” made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side while he then dismissed the crowd (over 5,000 people).
Prayer is a priority to Jesus and praying by himself provided focused, undistracted time to communicate with God the Father. So after the 5,000 had been satisfied, Jesus “immediately” (with purpose and intention) takes care of his responsibilities so that he can be alone to pray. He gives directions to his disciples for their next task and dismisses the crowds whose needs he has satisfied.
Jesus was looking forward to private time with the God the Father and he took care of everything else so that he could be free to pray. We often think we are too busy for prayer, but Jesus always found time for prayer even though he had to spread the Good News about God, train his disciples, teach those who did not understand, heal the sick, perform miracles and debate the Pharisees, all on a daily basis. I imagine the time in prayer not only renewed him and refocused him on his earthly mission but also pleased God. Jesus was reconnecting with his Heavenly Father and it is a lesson for all of us that no matter what is going on in our lives each day, we need to set time aside to be alone in prayer. We need to make prayer the number one priority. We need to take care of our own responsibilities, whether it’s putting the kids to bed, cleaning up or finishing the last task from work, so that we can be free from distractions to come privately before the Lord. This time alone with God can refresh, renew, refocus and most importantly, reconnect us to God. Aside from the benefits we can receive from prayer, setting time to be alone in prayer with God, pleases God.
Finally, the fact that Jesus prays on a mountainside has personal meaning to me. My parents took us to Colorado for family vacations and my wife and I have continued the tradition with our family. I have spent many hours in prayer in the mountains surrounded by God’s glorious creation and have been overwhelmed by God’s presence. Although no one else was with me, I was never alone. God is always there for us, we just need to go and meet with Him.
Dear Father, help us diligently set aside time each day to come to you privately in prayer. Help us be disciplined to do what Jesus did by finding time to be alone with you in prayer. Jesus was able to prioritize you while he was grieving the death of John the Baptist, healing the sick and feeding the 5,000. Help us make time with you our main priority….in Jesus name I pray.