Mark 1:35 – Early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
Luke 5:16 – But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
Education can be all-consuming. It’s filled with responsibilities, pressures, busyness, and increased demands. Most notably, it’s filled with people. As we all know, education is a people business. Whether it’s staff, students, families, or the community, education is people serving people, and we carry the weight of others daily. On top of our responsibilities as educators, we all have personal lives filled with both celebrations and struggles, along with increased demands and responsibilities as we lead our families. We must ensure we prioritize ourselves, specifically our hearts, so we can lead others from a position of overflow and not from an empty cup. When we prioritize our hearts by making God our treasure, our leadership can flourish as we “fill our cups” from the vertical love of God and pass the overflow horizontally to all those we lead within our schools and beyond.
Slow Down and Pray
For me, my mind is constantly moving in all directions. When I wake up early or sit down to spend time with God, my mind is pulled to everything else I “need” to do or could be doing during that time. Unfortunately, that anxious feeling often leads me to limit my time with God, and I struggle with a constant sense of needing to get other things done. Marshall Segal said, “Satan will try to make everything feel more urgent than sitting down to be with Jesus” (Segal, 2021). Instead of allowing myself to be quiet and still before the Lord, I try to push even harder to complete everything I need to do, which leaves me feeling unsettled, anxious, discontent, drained, and failing to lead those in my care as well as I should.
Our days in the world of education are so busy, yet there is One who holds the day in His hands and wants to spend one-on-one time with us. Jesus set the perfect example for all of us. He knew pressure and busyness should drive us towards prayer, not away from it, and he set the perfect example of how we should prioritize prayer. Mark 1:35 says, “Early in the morning while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
A Rhythm of Retreat and Reentry
Jesus purposefully set aside time to talk to God. Not only did he set aside time, he also prioritized the first part of his waking hours to be alone with God. Before the day-to-day responsibilities began, Jesus spent time with his Heavenly Father in solitude, pouring out His heart. We also see throughout the Bible how Jesus would withdraw from large crowds and find a solitary place to pray (Luke 5:16). Pause and think of how often we are surrounded by students and/or staff with a plethora of needs. We can’t take on these needs by ourselves, and we ought to quit trying to. Jesus would regularly retreat from the world to restore himself with HIs Heavenly Father before returning to the daily tasks and needs of so many others.
Not only did Jesus live this pattern of retreating and reentering by himself, but he taught his disciples the same pattern of withdrawing from crowds before entering back in. In Mark 6, the apostles had returned from ministry and gathered around Jesus to share all they had done and taught. So many people continued to come and go that Jesus said to them, “Come with me yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (v. 30-31).
David Mathis, Executive Editor of desiringGod.org(2020) describes the importance of the withdrawal and reentry model of leadership perfectly:
The healthy Christian life is neither wholly solitary nor wholly communal. We withdraw like Jesus to a desolate place to commune with God (Mark 1:35) and then return to the bustle of daily tasks and the needs of others. We carve out a season for spiritual respite, in some momentarily sacred space, to feed our souls, enjoying God there in the stillness. Then we enter back in, as light and bread, to a hungry, harassed, and helpless world (Matthew 9:36).
A Heart for God is a Heart for People
We want our hearts to love what God loves, to break for what breaks His, and to desire what God desires. We want our hearts to align with His and have a heart for loving and serving people. Reading the Bible and spending quiet time in prayer with our Heavenly Father are a great place to start transforming our hearts, our relationships, our schools, and our world. Jesus knew he could not do it alone, and neither can we. Our lives are way too busy not to pray.
Reflect and Journal
How does following Jesus’ example of waking early and withdrawing from crowds to spend solitary time in prayer with God change your perspective of prioritizing time in your day for solitude and prayer? Where can you find time in your day for solitude and prayer? How does this impact the other things you “need” to do?
Mathis, D. (2022, September 4). Time Alone for God: The Ageless Habits of Jesus Christ. Desiring God. Retrieved October 15, 2022, from https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/time-alone-for-god
Segal, M. (2021, September 2). You Have Time to Sit with God. Desiring God. Retrieved June 18, 2022, from https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/you-have-time-to-sit-with-god