The accounts that we have of Jesus’ life make it abundantly clear that Jesus was a man of prayer.  The first thing he did after His baptism was pray.  The last thing that he did before His death was pray.  And in between, there are so many references to His personal prayer life.

 For example, the gospel tells us that rising early in the morning, Jesus went off into a lonely place in the desert; there He was absorbed in prayer.”  The context in which that statement is made clearly indicates that Jesus did not use prayers as a substitute for work.  He was a hard worker.  Never once did Jesus ask God to do anything that He should have done himself.  Neither did Jesus’ use prayer as a substitute for reflection.  Wisdom wasn’t poured into His head like water into a glass.  He thought about life, and struggled with it until it made sense. 

Clear thought and hard work can produce some marvelous results.  But Jesus added one other ingredient.  That was prayer.  Why did He do that?  What did it mean to Him?  And what does His prayer life mean to us?

The most obvious answer is that Jesus prayed because He felt the need for it.  In all great matters, a sense of need precedes the discovery of the experience.  Jesus prayed because He felt the need to pray.  And here we touch the mystery of the incarnation.  He was God and man.   He was God incarnate, God in human flesh.  But we shouldn’t forget that He was also man. And somehow in this mystery of incarnation He needed the help, the power, and the strength that prayer can provide.  Why else would He arise long before daylight and find a solitary place to pray?

So, it is with you and me.  Life confronts us with questions we cannot answer, problems that defy solutions, and challenges that exceed our capabilities.  When that happens, what are we to do? Some would say we must try harder.  “When things get tough, the tough get going!” but brave slogans notwithstanding, we all know those times when trying hard is not enough.

These are the times when prayer becomes something more than religious ritual.  It is inwardly establishing contact with a resource of power and allowing that resource to replenish our own power.

So prayer reminds us that when we are alone, we are not truly alone.  This is one of the most profound and mysterious facts of human life – the consciousness that we are never done.  Jesus went to a solitary place to pray, but there, alone, He was not alone.

In the experience of solitude is the potential of inner strength, if we understand that we are not alone.  Then prayer becomes something more than self-hypnosis.  It is being alone with God and communicating with Him.

This does not imply or suggest a withdrawal from life.  It is rather a preparation for meeting the challenges of life.  For the truth is we cannot do much for anyone else, unless periodically we do something for ourselves.  The longer an orchestra plays, the more it needs to be tuned up. The further an airplane flies, the more it requires ground service.  Whenever a personality is out of tune, it cannot do much for others until it has done something for itself.

This was what prayer meant to Jesus. He prayed because He had needs that only prayer could meet.  If that was true of Him, can it be any less true of you and me?