After the Farewell Discourse (John 14-17) the group in the upper room sang the Passover hymn and Jesus went out “as was his custom” to the Mount of Olives (Luke 22:39). The phrase in the Greek text refers to “a usual or customary manner of behavior, a habit” (BDAG). That it is included, calls attention to the fact that on this occasion Jesus did what he always did, that is, he moved from the center of attention to a place where he could gather his thoughts and open his heart in prayer. His disciples followed him, but Peter’s strident defense of his live-or-die commitment to Jesus was certainly out of place as they walked to Gethsemane.
What I want to stress is that times for serious reflection were a customary part of Jesus’ life. He went to the Mount of Olives because it was customary (not necessarily the place but the purpose for going). We know that customs are helpful or not depending on what the custom is. On this occasion Jesus left the upper room to meet with his Father. It was what he did on a regular basis. For us to reflect Christ in our lives we should have that same customary practice. Ideally that custom should simply reflect what we do, but what if it isn't our practice?
It seems clear that if our lives don’t have the custom of regular times alone with the Father the next best thing would be to develop the habit. So how do we go about that? The most important ingredient in developing the habit is a genuine desire to become all that God desires for us. It requires a lot of “want to.” Lackadaisical commitment leaves us at ground zero. There will be no habitual practice apart from an ardent desire to make it a reality. The upside of this is that as the custom develops it becomes easier to maintain. Soon a day will seem strange if that encounter has not happened. We recognize the importance of relationships on a human basis. I’m not sure whether or not “absence makes the heart grow fonder” but I do know that life deprived of significant relationships is a miserable way to live. And for the Christian, a life lived where contact with one’s heavenly companion is sporadic is not the joyful experience it was meant to be. The old adage of “being too worldly to enjoy God and too spiritual to enjoy the world” is all too customary in many lives.
My suggestion is to develop – if it’s not already operative – the practice of regular time alone with God. Whether it is on our knees in a quiet place or out for a walk in the park doesn’t matter. What does is that the practice of enjoying the day with our Father is a vital part of every day.