By the time the sun rose in the morning, Yeshua was already up and long gone. A quick search of the village and inquiries at the synagogue availed nothing. People began to arrive at Simon Peter’s home, looking for the healer. With the help of Andrew, James, and John, Peter searched the village, checked the synagogue, walked down to the docks, and looked every place they could imagine the rabbi might be. The four fishermen and other folk of Capernaum combed out across the surrounding countryside. They discovered the Master in prayer at the secluded place. When they found Him, they exclaimed, “Everyone is looking for you!” (Mark 1:37).
Local tradition identifies the hilltops above the Seven Springs of Tabgha as the “secluded place” to which Yeshua often withdrew to pray. Christian tradition also identifies the same hill as the place from which He taught the Sermon on the Mount and delivered the great commission. The craggy soil made cultivation on the hillside difficult, and to this day the scarp of the hill, which drops off sharply, remains undeveloped. Local Christians identify a small cave in this hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee as one in which the Master escaped to pray. The cave is visible from the modern highway below, and Christian pilgrims today leave prayer notes and votive candles in the cave.
Daily prayer at the three times of prayer is a normal part of Jewish piety, but Yeshua’s prayer life went far beyond a routine of perfunctory prayers. Our Master believed in the practice of daily, personal, private prayer and sought time for it routinely (Mark 1:35, 6:46-47; Luke 5:16, 6:12; and John 6:15-16). Yeshua “would often slip away to the wilderness and pray … in the early morning, while it was still dark, Yeshua got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there” (Luke 5:16, Mark 1:35). He taught His disciples to spend time in private prayer as well (Mark 6:6). His emphasis on personal, private prayer of an intercessory nature is consistent with the practice of the Galilean Chasidim, who were holy men of His day. His disciples remembered His mode of prayer as particularly intense: “In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears … and He was heard because of His piety” (Hebrews 5:7).
If daily time spent in private prayer was important to Yeshua, who enjoyed full communion with the Father through the Spirit, how much more for us whose hearts are so prone to wander? Discipleship entails imitation. Let’s practice our discipleship to Yeshua by emulating his daily habit of entering the Presence of God in focused, private prayer.