Fairly early in Jesus’ ministry he met a leper who longed to be healed. Moved with pity, Jesus healed the man and sent him to a priest who would certify that the cure was effective. The leper, however, couldn’t help but rush out and tell everyone what had happened. Even though Jesus was spending most of his time out in the country people kept coming from everywhere in the region to be healed. At that point Jesus did something that was extremely important. Read Luke 12:5-16 and note the final sentence: “Because of the crowds I frequently withdrew to some deserted place to pray” (Jesus, In His Own Words.) The point is clear — the absolute necessity of prayer.
Reflect for a moment on the fact that the narrative is describing the ministry of none other than Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of the eternal God. It is he, not one of us mortals, who felt the need of withdrawing for a time from meeting the needs of others. What was more important than anything else at that point in time was time with his heavenly Father. If Jesus needed spiritual rest and renewal what can be said about us human beings flawed by sin?
Why is it that prayer is so essential for a well-lived Christian life? Scripture teaches that we are engaged in a spiritual battle. In his letter to the Ephesian church Paul writes: “Our battle is not against enemies in the physical world but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly world” (6:12, Dear Friends, This is Paul). Would any sane person think even for a moment that we could handle such adversaries with nothing but our native skills? Spiritual battles are won with spiritual weapons, and prayer is the one available to us. Prayer elicits the resources of God to withstand and then defeat the wicked powers of evil. If Jesus needed quiet time for prayer what could possibly be said of us?
But prayer is not simply the means of victory in spiritual conflict; it is also the ultimate experience of friendship with our loving Father. He delights in our companionship. He looks forward to those beautiful moments when together we share the joy of oneness. Knowing God fully is the richest of all his blessings and prayer opens that door.