Praying like Jesus

Today’s Gospel reading is the well-known story of Jesus walking on the Sea of Galilee. The story occurs in the Gospel of Matthew immediately after the feeding of the five thousand. While many homilists and writers have undoubtedly reflected on Jesus and Peter walking on the Sea of Galilee today, I found myself focusing on something else.

I noticed that right before both miracles, feeding the five thousand and walking on the water, Jesus did the same thing. He withdrew to a deserted place by himself to pray.

“When Jesus heard of it, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.” Matthew 14:13, Feeding of the Five Thousand

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“After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone.” Matthew 14:23, The Walking on the Water

Tintoretto,_Jacopo_-_Christ_at_the_Sea_of_Galilee

I believe there are subtle details in these readings about Jesus’ prayer practices that we can learn from.

Beautiful Places

In both instances Jesus prays outside in what were probably beautiful places. First he prayed in a boat on the Sea of Galilee and then on a mountain near the sea. I had the opportunity to pray on the beach in the mornings while I was on vacation this summer. It was an awesome way to start my day and watching the Sun rise above the Atlantic Ocean like a giant Eucharist as I prayed the Liturgy of the Hours was an experience I won’t soon forget. Naturally beautiful places immerse us in God’s creation and remind us of his love and glory.

Effort and Exertion

Jesus chose to exert himself to get to his prayer locations. It takes work to get a boat out onto water. It also takes effort to walk up a mountain. The readings do not tell us how far off the shore Jesus took his boat or how high Jesus walked up the mountain to pray, but he clearly chose challenging locations even though there were easier options nearby. Jesus could have easily prayed on the grass where he fed the five thousand, but he didn’t. We should remember the preparation and effort Jesus made to pray to his Father the next time we come up with excuses not to pray or to cut our prayer time short.

Time Commitment

Healing people, preaching, and doing other activities were part of Jesus’ ministry, but he took time away from those activities to pray. In fact, we can infer from Matthew 14:23-25 that Jesus must have spent a lot of time praying. The Scriptures say that Jesus was alone by the evening and that it was not until “the fourth hour,” between 3:00 AM and 6:00 AM, that he reached the disciples’ boat on the Sea of Galilee. If Jesus started praying in the evening and lifted Peter out of the sea during the fourth hour, then he must have spent somewhere between nine and twelve hours praying that evening. Prayer is not a throwaway activity. Without a dynamic prayer life, our ministry activities are in vain.

Praying Alone

Some of the places where Jesus went to pray were completely deserted. It may not always be practical for us to pray alone, especially for those of us with young families, and communal prayer is important, but the Scriptures tell us that Jesus valued praying alone and knew that it was important to get away from the crowds and even his own disciples to be alone with his Father from time to time.

A challenge to pray like Jesus

If we commit significant time and make an effort to journey to beautiful places to pray to our Lord alone from time to time, then I believe, like Jesus feeding the five thousand and walking on water, God will respond by giving us the grace to do amazing things for the glory of his kingdom.

  1. Joseph De Santo March 5, 2018 at 5:40 am

    Did you write this for me. It sure seems like it is with me in mind. Of course I know it is not but I must say it sure is for me. My prayer time is very lacking but one thing I took from this is that is that “a beautiful place” can be right in your home. It can be in your room when you know that no one will bother you. It can be during a sleepless night or when you wake up early in the morning and you know no one else will be up for hours.
    I have many of those time and will try to use them for “a beautiful place” to pray.
    Thank you Andrew for this wake up call.

    Reply

    1. Andrew Garofalo March 5, 2018 at 9:23 am

      Joe I am glad you liked this. For me with a full house of young kids it is sometimes challenging to pray at all. Sometimes I put headphones on to listen to some music while I pray in the midst of my children talking, playing and making all of the distractions you can imagine! That is when the virtue of patience must be exercised!

      Reply

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