12 While He was in one of the towns, a man was there who had a serious skin disease all over him. He saw Jesus, fell facedown, and begged Him: “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” 13 Reaching out His hand, He touched him, saying, “I am willing; be made clean,” and immediately the disease left him. 14 Then He ordered him to tell no one: “But go and show yourself to the priest, and offer what Moses prescribed for your cleansing as a testimony to them.” 15 But the news about Him spread even more, and large crowds would come together to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses. 16 Yet He often withdrew to deserted places and prayed. 17 On one of those days while He was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea, and also from Jerusalem. And the Lord’s power to heal was in Him. 18 Just then some men came, carrying on a mat a man who was paralyzed. They tried to bring him in and set him down before Him. 19 Since they could not find a way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on the mat through the roof tiles into the middle of the crowd before Jesus. 20 Seeing their faith He said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” 21 Then the scribes and the Pharisees began to think: “Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 22 But perceiving their thoughts, Jesus replied to them, “Why are you thinking this in your hearts? 23 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 24 But so you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—He told the paralyzed man, “I tell you: Get up, pick up your mat, and go home.” 25 Immediately he got up before them, picked up what he had been lying on, and went home glorifying God. 26 Then everyone was astounded, and they were giving glory to God. And they were filled with awe and said, “We have seen incredible things today!”
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
Luke provides us with a startling contrast between the public and the private life of Jesus. On the one hand we see Jesus surrounded by large crowds of people who came to hear Him preach or to be healed. On the other hand, we see Him retreating to a remote place where He could pray without interruption.
In this brief passage, Jesus is called upon to heal a man with leprosy, one of the most greatly feared diseases of the ancient world. Jesus not only heals his disease, but in the process does something astonishing and unheard of. He physically touches the unclean leper and the leper is immediately healed. Then to our amazement, He orders the leper not to tell anyone.
The news did spread and greater throngs of people came to Jesus, but He withdrew to a lonely place and prayed.
Jesus found a remote spot where there would be no crowds of people, no one demanding to be healed, and no one vying for His attention. Instead He could give His undivided attention to His Heavenly Father. In prayer, Jesus would find the strength to say “no” to the growing and incessant demands of others.
Many things in life will clamor for our time, attention and energy. We cannot possibly keep up with the emotional and physical demands of our lives without spending comparable time in prayer and solitude.
Well-known author and pastor Bill Hybels maintains the busier we are, the more we need to pray.
Jesus Christ set the example. We, too, can only be strengthened by spending time alone with God.
I am very grateful to serve a church that values the importance of prayer and allows each minister to designate one day each month as a prayer retreat day. It is not always easy to take advantage of this time away with the demands of families, projects to be completed, and appointments to be kept, but the benefits far outweigh the challenges of rearranging schedules and to-do lists.
One of my favorite places is Scarritt Bennett. While guest rooms can be reserved for privacy, the campus alone is beautiful and is designed for prayer and solitude. You may not have the liberty to take an entire day away, but an hour or two can accomplish the same purpose and will be more than worth the effort.
- Identify a set-apart place and a set-apart time for the set-apart purpose of daily prayer. Susanna Wesley, the mother of nineteen children and whose sons were instrumental in the Methodist movement, recognized her daily dependence on God, and prioritized her relationship with Him. When she needed time with Him, she simply pulled her apron over her head to pray. That was the children's signal to leave her alone!
- A set-apart place can be anywhere you choose to meet with God, even under an apron. Hang a “please do not disturb” sign on your office door. Spend your lunch hour or break time in prayer.
- Sign up to pray in the church’s Prayer Room for one hour each week.
- On your daily agenda or to-do list, schedule a specific time as an appointment to pray.