In today’s gospel we read, “Jesus left and went to a deserted place” apparently to pray. Ten times Saint Luke tells us specifically about Jesus’ practice of solitary prayer. I have listed them below. You might notice that most of these, but not all, highlight significant moments in his life: his baptism, selection of disciples, transfiguration, and agony in the garden.
1. Luke 3.21: Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened,
2. Luke 5.16: But he would withdraw to deserted places and pray.
3. Luke 6.12: Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God
4. Luke 9.18: Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say that I am?
5. Luke 9.28: Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus* took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white.
6. Luke 11.1: He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’
7. Luke 22.32: but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you,
8. Luke 22.41: Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed,
9. Luke 22.44: In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground
10. Luke 22.45: When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief,
But not all of his prayers were in moments of crisis:
…now more than ever the word about Jesus spread abroad; many crowds would gather to hear him and to be cured of their diseases. But he would withdraw to deserted places and pray.
All too often priests, parishioners, parents and grandparents exclaim, “I haven’t time to pray. I’m too busy with the Lord’s work!” Try explaining that to Jesus as he withdrew from the crowds who demanded both his preaching and his healing. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a preacher or priest who turned down an opportunity to preach before an eager congregation to pray in solitude. Jesus made a habit of it!
Prayer should come easily and naturally to us. We live in the presence of God; our schedule should be built upon the foundation of daily prayer. The Church recommends daily Mass, Liturgy of the Hours, the daily rosary, the angelus, scripture reading, morning offering, examination of conscience, and meditation. Not many can do all of them but all of us could practice some of them. When we do, we’ll find Jesus there, praying with us.