Yesterday morning, my wife and I took our daughter to her first day of second grade. Sunday morning, we saw several students for the last time until they return for Christmas break. The air has been charged with a mixture of trepidation and anticipation, with a sense of unknown potential, knowing that the next nine or so months could be dull and boring, or filled with the excitement that comes from gaining new and interesting knowledge. Much of the flavor of this time will be decided largely by the influences of one person: the teacher.

Though we don’t often think of prayer this way, prayer is something that can be learned, practiced, and improved, and if we want to learn about prayer, there is no better teacher than Jesus Himself. There are a few recorded occasions on which Jesus taught specifically about prayer, but what I want to focus on here is what we can learn about prayer by watching how He prayed. As I was thinking about this and searching through the gospels to learn what they said about Jesus’ own prayer habits, four things stood out.

First, Jesus got away from it all.

Luke 5:15 -16 tells us that as news about Jesus spread, large crowds were constantly seeking Him, and that there were times when He had to get away from the crowds in order to be alone with His Father. There are two things to notice here.

One is that it’s important to have time alone with God, where there is nothing to distract you from having your attention fully given to Him. Couples with healthy marriages know how crucial it is to have time away from everyone and everything else, away from the responsibilities of children, home, and work, where they can focus on knowing each other. Without this time, relationships can become contextualized, and couples begin to relate to each other only as fellow parents or housekeepers instead of relating to each other as people.

The same is true of our relationship with God. Without time away to focus on Him without interruption, we can forget that God is a Person, with Whom we have a living relationship. He can become to us just a dispenser of blessings, or help in times of difficulty, or only another section in our compartmentalized lives. Focused time alone with Him gives us room to see His intrinsic worth, glory, and majesty, instead of only seeing Him within the context of what He can do for us. We remember that His love for us is not based on who we are or what we can do for Him or others, but based only on the fact that He is love, and that we have done and can do nothing to earn His infinite affections.

The other thing to notice is that He took specific action in order to be alone, rather than just waiting for a convenient time. He knew that unless He was proactive about getting time alone, it wouldn’t happen, since the crowds were constantly seeking Him. In our hectic and busy culture, we need to pay careful attention to this fact. We are under a constant barrage of people, duties, and activities competing for our time and attention, and if we don’t set boundaries for them, they will monopolize our time, and God will get only leftovers at best.

How much time do you spend focused only on talking with God, as opposed to only talking to Him while you’re doing something else?

Do you have a place where you can be away from everything else to talk to God?

What are some actions that you can take in order to guard your time away?