And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.
Last Sunday I went alone to the desert for several days of prayer and rest with God. Watching the sun set that night, I was reminded of how He paints the sky as a master artist would.
Later that night while asleep, I had a dark dream where I saw three witches. The dream felt like it went on for hours (it’s not always easy to tell how long they go on when we’re asleep) until I finally woke up and was able to shut it down with prayer. Spending several days in prayer will often rouse the enemy. We’re of little risk to the gates of hell if we all we do is study about prayer; once we hit our knees we open the door of our heart to God’s spiritual power. Then anything can happen.
My time in God’s word the next morning included the following verses from Psalm 16:
I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Indeed, He would give me counsel during my time there. God walked me through healing, confession, and forgiveness that were needed from a project that turned sour with another organization several years ago. Later He walked through a wound of abuse from decades past that had laid dormant. More prayer, healing, and release.
In solitude, all of the scaffolding of one’s life comes apart; the diversions, distractions, pleasures, crutches; the ever-present voices clamoring for our attention, and everything we do to avoid facing that most terrifying person of all, the self, with all of its failures, pride, lusts, fear, sin – and wounding. It is here, devoid of distraction, where we face where our heart…
During ongoing, focused prayer, we invite Him to come, convict, cleanse, heal, and align us to Him. My prayers included, “Lord, I love You, want You, need You. I see this hard place in my heart; please come and touch it. Align my heart, my mind, my life, my will to You. Help me to see all of life through your eyes. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit of power, love, and sound mind. Open my heart more so I can have more of You. I know what’s inside of me and what this flesh wants; please help me to keep it crucified and live in the power of your resurrection.”
The issues He walked me through were His answer to those prayers.
Releasing every burden is a part of the blessing of solitude in the desert. We don’t realize how living in The Crazy affects us. Spending extended time in prayer and staying away from the news has a healing effect. “Lord, I release everything to You, my family, ministry, people I know, the future, my health, next month’s trip in Europe…” We exchange the stress and trauma we’ve been carrying for His rest and peace.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Going away alone to desolate places for extended time in focused prayer was Jesus’ way of life; one He encourages us to indulge in. The soul needs prayer in solitude. Without it, we tend to build wonderful scaffolds filled with diversions and pleasures to hold us together, even churchy ones. Have you ever wondered why there is always noise going on throughout the average church service? People start squirming and checking their phones with more than a moment or two of silence.
Which is a tragedy.
During one of my walks, I ran into a cactus in bloom:
It was a reminder that we find life in desolate places.
When I arrived home, one of my family members told me “You look like you’re at peace.” I was. Jettisoning every burden, soaking in God’s presence in solitude, and allowing Him to perform heart surgery got me there.
Jesus invites every believer to “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.”
When is the last time you went away alone with the Lord?