Withdraw and Pray

Luke 5:15-16-" 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."

Jesus had just healed a leper and again demonstrated his power and authority over physical sickness. Once again Jesus poured out mercy as he brought immediate healing to an societal outcast. Jesus' touching of the leper made him unclean in the eyes of the religious authorities, and thus, demonstrated his identifying with the leper rather than the religious establishment. Jesus showed, as he had so many times before, that he came to rub shoulders with the isolated; the unclean; the broken; the lost.

Jesus told the leper to tell no one what he had done (v.14), except for the priest to whom he was to go and sacrifice according to the Old Testament Levitical law (Leviticus 14:2-32). The sacrifice itself would not cause the cleaning; the sacrifice would be one of thanksgiving for the cleansing Jesus had done. The man's sacrifice would be an opportunity to witness to the priest, proving that Jesus was divine and working miracles throughout the region.

So why does Jesus tell the leper not to share the incredible miracle that just occurred? So that crowds would not continue to build and riot, seeking Jesus only for miracles. Yet we get the sense that the leper may not have kept the good news to himself. For "now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities."

Jesus' popularity continued to grow. People wanted to hear him and be healed by him. The amazing news could not be contained. But instead of embracing the popularity and following the demands of the crowds, Jesus withdrew to desolate places to be with His Father. Jesus went where prayer led, not where people led.

Time and again we read of Jesus spending time in silent prayer (Luke 6:12; 11:1). The Son of God desired to commune with his Father and delighted in following his Father's leading. God knew where Jesus' work was to be done and how it was to be done and with whom it was to be done. Time in prayer gave Jesus clarity in his ministry and mission as he sought the Father's will, full of the power of the Holy Spirit, who empowered Jesus for his ministry (Luke 4:14; 4:18). Quiet, intimate times of prayer in secluded, desolate places gave Jesus the right mindset, which was to obey his Father, abide in his love (John 15:10), and to preach the good news of the Kingdom (Luke 4:18).

Let me ask you: has your prayer life diminished recently? Are you seeking to live life in your own power instead of God's power? Are you feeling crushed by the crowds? Is anxiety taking over? Has the lure of popularity and worldly desires hooked you? Let me encourage you to do what Jesus did: pray. Find a desolate, quiet place to pray and pour out your heart to the Father. Ask him to strengthen you in the power of the Spirit (Ephesians 3:16-17) so that you can live each day in joyful obedience. Plead with God to grant you wisdom in everything going on in your life today. If our Savior needed to meet with His heavenly Father in prayer, how much more do we!