"He withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and He knelt down and began to pray." Luke 22:41
The Principle of Separation
Principle: Periodic separation from good relationships carves out time that can be invested in God's best, intimacy with Him.
Jesus found it necessary to step away from those closest to Him. He hungered for a period of time in His life that was, unapologetically, spent alone with God. He did so not as an expression of callousness towards His followers, but as a display of tenderness towards His Father.
Jesus challenged His disciples to follow His example. Repeatedly, they had seen Him go to the mountain or some secret place to pray. Jesus did not tell them to do something that He no longer put into practice. In this passage, the disciples were told to pray that they would not enter into temptation, and then Jesus withdrew to do the very same thing that He told them to do. This kind of integrity, and authenticity marked the prayer life of Jesus. He never outgrew His need for intimacy with God, especially when facing a crisis.
The most dangerous thing a person can do is to enter into temptation in a prayer less condition. Jesus led His disciples to pray, and taught them how to pray, but He did not make them pray. It was a personal hunger that they would have to experience in order to find satisfaction for themselves at the point of their need.
The disciples found their strength in being in the Presence of Jesus. Jesus found His power in the Presence of God. The disciples drained Him, and the Presence of God sustained Him. There were times that He sensed His need for the relationship of Father and Son to be strengthened. He turned to prayer as the means to receive God's direction, and to mold His will to that of His Father's.
Separation from those who need us the most is a price that must be paid in order to experience the Presence of the One who loves us the most. The people who need us the most will not receive what they need from us, if we allow time with them to squeeze out time with God. Jesus was able to give His disciples what they needed as long as He stayed in touch with God. Christ followers must learn this lesson if they hope to avoid burnout or compassion fatigue.
Separation is not so much a matter of getting away from those who drain, but running into the Presence of the One who sustains. Vacations, recreation, hobbies, entertainment, retreats, and even sabbaticals are poor substitutes for His Presence. They serve a worthy purpose, but have limited power to refresh and renew the vision and ministry of a Christ follower. Getting away from people is the beginning, but not the end of the process in this principle.
Getting with God, and accepting His will is the ultimate purpose of prayer. Jesus conformed His will to the Father's will by getting away from His disciples and getting into the Presence of His Father. Getting into God's Presence will exact a price that is paid in time alone with Him. There are some things that God means to say to His children in private, before they can speak for Him in public.
It is possible for loved ones to be a great distraction from meaningful time in prayer. Periodic separation for seasons of prayer exchanges what is good for what is best. Satan is not the enemy of the good. He is the enemy of the best. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. He lives to separate people from God's best for their lives.
Jesus chose to separate Himself from others in order to spend time with God. He was not running away from responsibility, but reaching out to God to provide Him the courage and the strength to give His followers what they needed most, a Savior.
The Practice of Prayer: Carve out time for solitary prayer with God. Withdraw from the ones you love in order to make time to be available to God. Choose the time of day that is best for you. He is ready when you are.
Thought for the Day: It is never too late or too early to choose God's best for your life. Separating yourself from people of good intentions, to spend time with the One who loves you most, will lead to God's best for your life.
"Satan laughs softly at the Church today and says under his breath: "You can have your Sunday Schools...your institutional churches, and your men's clubs and your grand choirs, and your fine organs and your brilliant preachers, and your revival efforts, as long as you do not bring them into the power of the Almighty God, sought and obtained by earnest, persistent, believing, mighty prayer." R. A. Torrey