A downy woodpecker like the one above visited the tree beside our balcony this morning as I was enjoying my private prayer time.

As I watched this cute little bird flutter around from branch to branch pecking at the bark, I found myself singing internally a praise song to the Lord.

My heart filled with joy to have a sighting of this cute bird.

At other times, my private prayer time is inside my home but where I can look out onto my balcony area.

Gazing on wildlife frequently brings me to praise and worship of my Lord as I also meditate upon His word to receive instructions for my day.

It is my habit to spend time in private prayer and reflection with my Lord.

  • Why do I practice this habit of private prayer and reflection?

Read the following passage from four different translations:

ESV  Luke 5:16 But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.

NAS  Luke 5:16 But He Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.

NET  Luke 5:16 Yet Jesus himself frequently withdrew to the wilderness and prayed.

NIV  Luke 5:16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

The simple answer to why I practice a habit of private prayer is because Jesus did.

  • But why did Jesus practice a habit of private prayer?
  • What is the point of the use of the words desolate, wilderness and lonely in the translations above?

To answer these questions above we must look at the context Luke 5:16 follows.

Read ESV  Luke 5:12-16:

12While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.”

13 And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him.

14 And he charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.”

15 But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities.

16 But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.

Jesus willingly healed a man’s leprosy simply by touching him.

Jesus then instructed the man to tell no one except the priests as Moses had commanded. (See Leviticus 14:1-32.)

The gospel of ESV  Mark 1:40-45 also shares this story:

40 And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.”

41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.”

42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.

43 And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once,

44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.”

45 But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.

Mark tells us the healed man disobeyed the instructions to keep his healing to himself and the priests.

Both Mark and Luke indicate that word of this healing and others spread quickly among the crowds who then sought their own healing from Jesus.

  • Do you think Jesus may have sought desolate, lonely places in wilderness simply to escape the crowds?
  • Have you ever felt overwhelmed by people and just needed to get away from them?
  • What else might be the motivating factor in Jesus’ habit of seeking time for private prayer?

Review ESV Luke 4:38-40:

38 And he arose and left the synagogue and entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was ill with a high fever, and they appealed to him on her behalf.

 39 And he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her, and immediately she rose and began to serve them.

40 Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them.

Here we see Jesus’ healing not only Simon’s mother-in-law but others too as the sun was setting on the day

Now read ESV  Luke 4:42-43:

42 And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them,

43 but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.”

The people in the area where Jesus had just done mighty works of healing ministry sought to keep him from leaving.

Jesus’ private prayer time however helped Jesus know that he was not to stay there exclusively but that he was to continue his ministry of preaching good news of the kingdom of God to other towns.

Jesus habitually sought time alone with the Lord to receive instruction and encouragement to complete the mission he came to fulfill.

Jesus valued the Father’s will above the crowds.

The words desolate, lonely and wilderness are not meant to impart feelings of sadness, but rather that Jesus was seeking solitude or respite to be alone with his Father.

Remember, Jesus had pity to heal those who came to him. (See Mark 1:41 ) and did not refuse to heal even though the sun was setting (See Luke 4:40).

Jesus cared about meeting the needs of those who sought his help.

His mission was not to simply do temporary healings while on this earth.

His mission was to preach the good news of the kingdom of God. (See Luke 4:43).

Reflection Questions:

  • Do you have a private prayer time habit? Why or why not?
  • Where is your favorite place for private prayer or where would you consider starting a habit for private prayer?
  • What special instructions or encouragement have you received through the habit of private prayer?
  • What deters or distracts you from a habit of private prayer?
  • What can you do to make private prayer a priority in your life?

Why the woodpecker brought me joy during my private prayer time:

ESV  Matthew 6:26-34 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,

29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’

32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.


Barbara Lynn


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