THE BAKER OF
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3. God restores
To avoid pride in prayer, Jesus urged his followers to
practice private prayer. We should go to a secluded place without
distractions. We cannot go to the wilderness every day; we should have a
silent place where we can be alone with God.
The gospels report several
times that Jesus withdrew himself to the hills to pray. For some of his
miracles, he took the afflicted person aside, away from the crowd. During
his struggle in Gethsemane, he isolated himself from the disciples.
When we are alone with God, we
donít have to worry about our words. Jesus said that the Father knows our
needs even before we ask him anything. So, what then is the purpose of
prayer? We donít have to inform God about the situation Ė he knows that
better than we do. A list of petitions is not the goal of prayer either.
When adult children visit their parents, they donít start with a list of
things they want from the parents. Instead, they enjoy the company of the
parents, appreciate them as unique people in their lives, and if they need
help from them, they will later put the problem on the table.
The inner room gives
opportunity for quality time with God. Jesus taught us to pray first of all
that Godís name be glorified, his kingdom come, and his will be done. When
talking to our Father, we can be completely honest and open about our needs,
fears, sins, thanks, dreams, and goals.
However, when we are alone
with God, we have to listen, too. Ask him to lead you by his Spirit, and
wait in silence for the whispering voice. If your plan is in his will, your
assurance will gradually grow; if not, you will soon loose interest in the
God also speaks through his
word. You may read your favorite verses, but also read books of the Bible,
chapter by chapter. You may want to alternate books of the Old and New
Testaments. You may be amazed how often the reading of the day is applicable
to your needs of the day.
The inner room is a good
antidote for old age: ďThough outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we
are being renewed day by dayĒ (2 Cor. 4:16). The refreshment of our silent
time invigorates us for the challenges and opportunities of the day. Drink
from this stream like a riverside tree.
Although our personal daily
contact with God is the backbone of our Christian lives, we should not
neglect communal worship (Heb. 10:25). When we worship with others, we are
empowered by the assurance that we are not alone Ė we have company on the
2. Healing in
Solitude and loneliness are not the same. Loneliness is
being alone against your will, and is emotionally painful and hurting.
Solitude is being alone by choice, and is emotionally pleasant and healing.
Because the Israelites
multiplied, the Pharaoh decreed that all their male newborn be thrown into
the river. When Moses was born, his mother put him in a basket on the river,
leaving his future in Godís hand. The princess discovered the baby, and
adopted him as her own. Growing up in the palace, Moses discovered that he
was Hebrew, so he became sympathetic toward his own people. He accidentally
killed an Egyptian who abused a Hebrew. Fearing retribution by the king, he
fled to Midian, east of Sinai.
Stripped of his royal
privileges and schedules, herding sheep in the desert, he had time to think
about the unexpected turns his life had taken. God was preparing him in
solitude to become one of the greatest leaders of ancient Israel. In that
same desert, he shepherded Godís people for forty years.
Centuries later, another
servant of God found refuge in that same desert. Fleeing from the wrath of a
queen, Elijah met with God in solitude, and heard his whispering voice. His
body, soul, and spirit were restored, and he went back and proceeded with
John the Baptist often
wandered into the Judean wilderness west of the Dead Sea. Watching jackals,
wild goats and rock hyraxes, he learned what was edible and so survived on
simple foods like honey and locusts. His father told him what the angel had
said; he knew he was the herald of the Messiah. In solitude, God prepared
him for his task, and when the time came, many streamed to him in the Jordan
Valley to hear his powerful messages.
Jesus also paid a visit to the
desert before he began with his ministry. He fasted and prayed for forty
days, preparing himself for his work, which would start with a victory over
Satan. As Jesus was famished, the devilís first attempt must have been a
real temptation: make bread from stones and still your hunger! Jesus
overcame Satan by the power of Godís word. After that, the demons fled in
fear from Jesus.
When the risen Christ changed
Saul the persecutor to Paul the missionary, Paul needed some time to rethink
his life. He went into the Arabian Desert, and there, alone with God, he was
reoriented. He knew the Old Testament well, but he had to reinterpret all
those passages on the Messiah. Paul became the most important theologian of
first century Christianity.
These faith-warriors were not
lonely in the wilderness; God was with them.
1. He redeems
my life from the pit
Solitary confinement is severe punishment. It is not
related to solitude but to loneliness. These prisoners yearn for contact
with their friends. They sleep, read, pace, think and plan, but time passes
slowly when you have too much of it.
Any unpleasant situation that
keeps one captive can feel like incarceration. Missing people, who work as
sex slaves, experience this feeling of hopelessness. Others feel imprisoned
by their marriage, work or social-economic situation, but they canít break
free because the status quo provides food, clothes and shelter.
The Bible paints a few
situations of loneliness. Joseph knew his brothers did not like him because
he was his dadís favorite. However, when they put him into a pit, he really
felt the pain of rejection. Twenty three years later they still remembered
Josephís anguished cries to which they shut their ears (Gen. 42:21).
His dry-well experience was
nothing in comparison with the holes he would face in Egypt. As slave, he
did his best and was promoted. Then his masterís wife accused him falsely of
sexual harassment. It was a hard blow to the self-respect of this
God-fearing young man. He was imprisoned with condemned people; it made him
feel lonely even among this crowd. On the right time, God exonerated him.
Samson misused his God-given
power. He landed in jail without eyes, every day pushing in darkness the
heavy millstone in endless circles. His imagination must have replayed his
life often, thinking about the incidents where he made wrong choices. He was
blind, imprisoned, enslaved and hopeless by his own wrongdoing. In his
regret, he projected his anger on his enemies, and waited for the day of
The prophet Jeremiah was
thrown into a pit for proclaiming Godís word to the king and nation. He was
an old man already, and standing up to his chest in mud in a dark pit would
not have improved his health. Imagine the darkness, silence, loneliness,
hopelessness and despair as he prayed for relief of this undeserved misery.
An Ethiopian pleaded Jeremiahís case with the king, and got permission to
hoist him out. David used the pit-experience figuratively (Ps. 40:1-3,
Jesus was condemned to death at 6 am (Roman
time, John 19:14), and crucified on the third hour (9 am, Jewish time, Mark
15:25). He had to wait more than two hours with his bruised and lacerated
body. He had blessed those who visit prisoners and give a cup of cold water
Ė did anyone honor him in this way in his loneliest hours? On the Via
Dolorosa and on Calvary he was surrounded by friend and foe, and still felt
lonely and deserted, carrying the sins of humanity, an act nobody could