After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone (Mt 14:23)
“After doing so,” is referring immediately to the preceding verse where Jesus dismisses the five-thousand after he had fed them and forced his disciples to go ahead of him and sail off to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus was now alone, which was the reason he originally came to this deserted place but the people had followed him. Weary, and worn, for we need to remember that Jesus was fully human as well as divine, Jesus “went up on the mountain by himself to pray.”
We need to do the same. In the midst of our business, we need to make time to be alone and pray. Like Jesus, we have many demands on our time. We may have many obligations, many people, and many challenges pulling at us. We also may have many diversions, anxieties, and fears that tempt us when we do move in the direction of making time to pray. The very act of being quiet, of being still, can be a fearful exercise. It is here we are called to face ourselves, our sin, our despair, loneliness, and/or our pain, suffering, and hurts. As Jesus walked up the mountain, I am sure two recent events, being rejected in his hometown and the death of John the Baptist, were on his mind.
If making time to pray has been a challenge, then the first step is to just begin with examining your days to find some “crumbs of wasted time to try to build short moments for recollection and prayer, we may discover that there is quite a lot of it” (Bloom 49). The point is to begin, and it is not so important how or what we pray, but to just make a commitment to two, three, five minutes each day in which to experience the present moment where God is waiting for us.
The very desire to pray is prayer already because we are becoming aware of God’s invitation to spend time with him. Just as Peter walked on water for the time he held his gaze on Jesus, so can we experience Jesus when we meet him face to face in prayer. To pray, we just need to answer the invitation from God and show up. Take some deep breaths, allow your shoulders to relax, and then say, “I am seated, I am doing nothing, I will do nothing for five minutes, then relax” (52).
The goal to start is not so much what you do during this time, or to experience anything. The goal is that you complete the time you made a commitment to, no matter what arises. You can just examine the day, say the Lord’s prayer slowly, breathe, talk freely with God. Resist the temptations that will arise to stop and get up. By doing so, we begin to disengage ourselves from the hamster wheel of habitual patterns and reactions. We will also begin to see traces of God’s presence in our daily experiences.
One stepping stone at a time is the key. Choose a time and place to commit to being still. Sit, breathe, and complete your time of stillness. Continue to show up and God will take care of the rest!