Mentoring has become an increasingly popular method of teaching. The Bible is filled with examples of effective student-teacher interactions of this type. But arguably none were more effective than the mentorship provided by Christ to His chosen Twelve. In these devotional thoughts, we are going to look at one day the disciples spent with their Mentor, as recorded in Matthew 14, and hopefully discover a few “lessons” Jesus imparted to his disciples as He was preparing them as ministry leaders.
Lesson 1: The Priority of Private Prayer
Some mentoring lessons are not so much “taught” as they are “caught.” This was true for the disciples as they learned by direct observation of the behavior and actions of their amazing Teacher. The first lesson of the day was this kind of learning.
He [Herod the Tetrarch] sent and had John beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. And his disciples came and took the body and buried it, and they went and told Jesus. Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. (Matthew 14:10-13a ESV)
Whether because of grief or because of the crowd’s expectations, or simply to rest, Jesus needed to get away to the desolate (or solitary) place. The solitary place was a place for prayer, to process things with the Heavenly Father. Jesus had begun His ministry with a forty-day prayer retreat in the solitary place. The Gospel of Mark (1:35) notes that Jesus got up before daybreak and went off to a solitary place for prayer. Later He would visit the solitary place of the Garden of Gethsemane for a time of intense prayer on the eve of His crucifixion. And in the present instance, in the midst of the grief and uproar around the death of John the Baptist, Jesus removed Himself to a place where evil and chaos could once again be placed in proper perspective–in quiet communion with His Heavenly Father. He did it because He needed to–He wanted to hear the Father’s voice and commune with Him.
The disciples surely took notice. If Jesus their Teacher found it necessary to spend time with the Heavenly Father in prayer, how much more so would it be important for them? Luke’s Gospel even introduces the Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:1-4) as a request from one of Jesus’ disciples to teach them to pray. They knew prayer was important to their Teacher.
Peter must have learned the lesson. As a leader in the early Church, he spent time alone in private prayer. It was on that rooftop in prayer that God helped him grow in his understanding of the Gospel. He later encouraged the Christians scattered due to persecution to “cast all your cares upon Him (God) because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
FOR REFLECTION: So, what about you and me? Do we intentionally follow Jesus’ example, especially in the intensity of our ministries, to get away to the solitary place for prayer, to hear the Father’s voice and rest in His Presence? Ministry 101 begins with the simple but important truth: private prayer is essential for fruitful ministry.