So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed
I am gearing my sermons and lessons to the command Jesus gave to the first disciples, “Follow Me.” It was very easy for me to use the Gospel readings for the past two Sundays to preach from that theme. For today’s Bible Study, we neither see a Master Teacher giving lessons from a borrowed boat nor telling a confessing sinful fisherman that he will catch men from now on. In fact, we don’t see Jesus wanting attention at all.
Our Lord is in a certain city, perhaps on his way to a synagogue to teach a lesson, when a man full of leprosy comes to him seeking a cleansing. Jesus is full of compassion and willingly heals the man. But after it happens, Christ tells the man not to anyone but to the priest and make the prescribed Mosaic sacrifice. The miraculous act of our Lord’s compassion was directed to be met with sobriety and order. Human nature, either by the healed man’s disobedience or the observation of others who told of what happened, makes such a directive almost impossible. In the words of the African-American music tradition:
I couldn’t keep it to myself what the Lord has done for me
Of course, Jesus does not retaliate against him and bring the leprosy back on him. But, now Christ is unable to move about as freely as he would like. Masses of people are now coming to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. More than likely, the Lord healed those who came to him. With the added stress of expectations and hopes of so many others weighing on him, Jesus needs to do something to handle the situation.
In the text of the Orthodox Study Bible, the word often is italicized to highlight the point of how important prayer is. Except for medical professionals, we aren’t expected to heal people. But, we all deal with more stress than we would like. And at any moment, someone can spill our secrets, misuse our kindness, and demand more of us. Stress can keep us from being effective. It has been proven that it can kill us. Frequent prayer is the means Jesus used to continue in wisdom and compassion.
To follow Jesus, we should follow his rule of prayer in the text. Go somewhere to be to yourself as much as you can and pray. Union with God enables us to handle the normal expectations of life and the added stress of the unexpected. Being in crowds may feed the ego. But, it starves the soul. Find your wilderness, closet, mountain top, or somewhere else where you can be alone. Pray often. The morning mumble and mutterings while eating a doughnut is not enough to sustain faith. One should take advantage of break times and lunch during the work or school day. Even if long, audible prayers are not possible, concentrated and concise prayers are just as effective. Either must be done in sincerity. If we seek solitude and prayer often, we will also be able to live in wisdom and compassion.