What's the deal with Jesus going out to the desert to pray? What significance did the desert have for Him and what does it mean for me as a follower of Christ? The Bible describes, based on what translation you prefer, Jesus withdrawing himself to "the wilderness," "lonely places," "desolate places," or "deserted places" to pray. Note it says "deserted places" not "desserted places"....but I have prayed at the Cheesecake Factory, "Thank you Almighty God for this enormous menu filled with every kind of cheesecake imaginable. Please bless me with a chocolatey delight and a decaf. Amen."
Each one of those translations holds some mystery and I hope some answers as I study God's Word, the life of Christ, and look for ways to live my own life. Why did Jesus feel so compelled to go out to these lonely places to pray? Was it to escape the busyness of his daily life that consisted of teaching and serving others to no end? Did he isolate himself to take away distractions or to find refuge? Is this proof that Jesus was an introvert and needed to be alone to recharge? Did he just want a private conversation now and then with his Papa? Don't we all? And yet for so many of us when life gets too busy...our conversations with God, our allotted time to connect with Him seems to quickly work its way down our To Do list. Allotted God Time?
Whatever the reason, I'm stuck with the idea that Jesus went to the wilderness...to the desert to pray. When you hear the word desert what do you picture? Death Valley? For me it's this place of drought, oppressive heat in the day, and bitter cold at night. It's a landscape filled with dangerous animals such as snakes and scorpions. Howling coyotes. Windstorms. The desert is parched and unwelcoming. It provides little shelter or nourishment. Yet here is where Jesus went when He wanted to center in on his relationship with God. Some people claim to love the desert. I would argue it is the air-conditioned, laying by the pool, irrigated golf course version of the desert they are thinking about.
The Bible never mentions Jesus finding an oasis in which to pray. It speaks of lonely places and mountainsides. Mountainsides in sandals. Not only did he find reconnection with his Father in dry and dusty places, sometimes he had to climb a mountain to get to that "right spot" where He would sit and listen. This doesn't seem like my ideal environment to pray and commune with God. I like comfort.
Where do I go when I want to hear from God? This is where conviction hits me big time. When I'm not at church or Bible study and I just want to speak with God, to connect with him, to study the Word, I want an oasis. I want the perfect sanctuary: I want to lay on my bed with a cup of hot coffee, to be cozy in my robe and slippers, I want the house to be quiet, I want a full tummy, and most importantly an empty schedule. I want.
Perhaps it's my desire to be free of distraction, to hold comfort in high esteem, and my uncanny ability to find valid reason after reason for not creating Allotted God Time that most often leads me to my own desert - my spiritual wasteland. What if I decided that praying in the wilderness, in the middle of the noise and danger was the exact right place to speak to God? What if I decided that no matter how little nourishment was provided for me, I wouldn't withhold my praise? What if the desert was my everyday life and I found refuge in God right in the midst of it all?