There's a time for united prayer, but also there's a time when you, just by yourself, need to get alone with God.
Alright, thank you very much. And hello again, radio friends. How in the world are you? [chuckle] Doing alright? You can be in the world, but you don’t have to be of the world. You don’t have to be tarred with the world’s brush, thank God for that. “You who are kept,” the Bible says, “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.” God is in the keeping business, as well as in the saving business. And He will keep you today as you trust Him. Trust Him. Trust Him. The key to being kept is trust and commitment. Let God give the orders. You just follow, he’ll keep you.
Well, this is your good friend, Bob Cook, and we’re looking now at the Gospel of John. We’re in chapter six. We’ve just been looking at the miracle of the feeding of 5,000 men, besides women and children. That was quite a crowd. Now, the crowd immediately had a crowd reaction. Those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did said, “This is of a truth that prophet, which should come into the world.” In other words, this is the Messiah. When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain, himself, alone. Mark says he departed into a mountain to pray. It must have been, because our Lord Jesus was not only totally divine, he was also totally human. It must have been something of a temptation, an inducement to think that this great crowd of people would proclaim him as being sovereign. It could be humanly the ground swell that would start a successful revolution against the power of Rome that governed all of the known world in those days.
He said he departed into a mountain, himself, alone. A couple of thoughts here:  When temptation hits you, that’s the time to pray, don’t wait until after you’ve fallen and then say, “Lord, forgive me.” Yes, he will forgive when we fall. “There is forgiveness with thee that thou mayest be feared,” said the psalmist. And John wrote, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Yes, thank God there’s forgiveness, but the time to pray is when temptation hits you. In the moment when you are aware of some temptation either coming from within. James says, “Every man is tempted when he’s drawn away of his own desires and enticed,” or some solicitation to evil that comes from without. That’s the time to pray, and commit yourself completely to God. You will never give up to temptation when you’re praying, “Jesus, help me now.” Our Lord faced temptation with prayer.
Another thought here. You have to get away from the crowd and the routines if you’re gonna seek God. Now, that doesn’t mean that you have to take an extended vacation in Tahiti or something. That isn’t the point. You can always find a place where you can be utterly alone with your Lord. When we lived in Chicago for some years, we were buying a house, the bank and I. [chuckle] And I needed a place where I could pray. Well, it was pretty hard to find some place where you could be absolutely alone in a home where young children are growing up. My father was living with us at the time, but I discovered that there was a little alcove at the rear of the house, an extension of the attic. It wasn’t the whole attic, it was just a little extension that stuck out there at the end of the roof. And it was entered by a small door, about 4 feet high, you had to bend down to get in. And I thought, “There is an ideal place where I can be alone with the Lord.”
I had a little desk that I had bought second-hand from an office furniture company down on Lake Street, and I brought that little desk in, and a typewriter, and a lamp, and some supply of paper, and a waste basket. You always have to have a waste basket if you’re gonna write anything because lots goes in there, doesn’t it? [chuckle] File 13, the circular file and a chair, I had a little swivel chair. My Bible, my Greek New Testament, the concordance, and there I was. And day after day, I would find that that place was for me. It was utterly dark, there was no windows in it, and then in summer it could get pretty hot, but that was a place where I could get absolutely alone with God. Nobody else came in there. There wasn’t any phone, and I could get away, and seek the Lord.
I remember when I first began to do that regularly, that there came a new sense of God’s presence in my life and in my preaching. I remember that so clearly. Your preaching, pastor, will improve in direct proportion of the time you spend seeking God. The way to combat temptation is to have regular times of getting alone. He departed into a mountain, himself, alone. He didn’t take anybody with him. Now, there are times for united prayer. “Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name,” Jesus said, “there am I in the midst of them.” When Peter was in jail, he said prayer was made unto God by the church continually for Him. The whole church praying, and God answered that prayer and got Peter out of jail.
So there’s a time for united prayer, but also there’s a time when you, just by yourself, need to get alone with God. The reason being, when you’re with people you tend to make speeches to God but when you’re absolutely alone, just you and God, you really can’t do other and tell God the truth. There isn’t any audience there to impress, so it’s just you and your Lord. And it’s like Peter said, “Lord thou knowest all things. You know whether or not I love you.” God looks into your heart and you begin to pray in earnest and honesty as well as with the urgency of one who knows that he must receive strength and guidance from above. A mountain, himself, alone. Find a place in your life where you can be alone with God. It doesn’t have to be a fancy place. I’ve prayed in coal cellars and I’ve prayed in rickshaws, in the rain in China. And I’ve prayed in airplanes, you can be alone with God. You don’t have to take a trip to do that, okay? But do everyday find some time when you can be alone with your Lord.
You know, the psychologist have found this out. Now if you read any of the success books, you’ll find somewhere in these books that tell you how to be successful, they’ll say, structure some solitude for yourself everyday. That’s the way they say it, plan… We would say it plan to be alone by yourself for some time everyday. Some solitude. Be alone. Why? ‘Cause it makes you honest with yourself. It brings you down to the basics of your own life and personality. It gives you a chance to think about what way you’re going and how will it end. Build some aloneness with God for yourself everyday.
By the way, when you’re praying, there’s no law against thinking. Think, consider how the Lord has dealt with you, that’s the past. Consider all his blessings, the Bible says; that’s the present. Consider how it will end. Think about where you’ve been, and when you are, and where you’re going as you pray. I have to tell you that some of the finest ideas I have ever had by way of understanding my own life’s progress have come when I was in prayer. God enabled me to understand which way he was leading me, and what the outcome might be. As well, I must confess some of the strongest warnings I’ve gotten have been as I was thinking about myself and about my life while I was praying and God warned me about some things that needed to be changed. So there’s no law against thinking while you pray when you get alone with God.
By the way, make a habit of taking with you a little blank notebook in which you can write down the things that God speaks to your heart. I find that although I’m blessed by the impressions I get when I’m praying, if I don’t write them down I soon forget them. Just as it is when you think of a good idea in the middle of the night and you say to yourself sleepily, “Oh, that’s a good idea. I’ve gotta work on that in the morning.” And when you awaken you say, “What was that, that I was thinking about last night?” And for the life of you, you cannot recall it. So when you pray, have a little notebook with you where on those blank pages you can write down what God is saying to your heart. The Holy Spirit of God will whisper to your heart some very precious things as you wait before him, alone with God.
“Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord, abide in him only, and feed on his word. By looking to Jesus like him, thou shalt be thy friends in thy lifestyle his likeness”. We’ll see. Take time. Be alone with God. That’s what we get out of John 6:15. Well, our blessed Lord had sent the disciples away, he said, “You go while I dismiss the people.” We get that side light out of one of the other gospel records. Matthew tells about this as indeed does Mark. And so, he sent away the people and then he went by himself into the mountain and prayed. Now, evening was come, the sun is going down, the disciples were on their way across the Sea of Galilee, and it was now dark, verse 17, and Jesus had not come to them and they said, “Well, we better go. He told us to go.” And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew.
I have never been, I am sorry to tell you, never been to the Holy Land. Someday I hope to go there. If I wait long enough, I’ll go there in the millennium [chuckle] and take a trip free. God will pay my ticket then, won’t he? [chuckle] But you know, they tell me that the Sea of Galilee is subject to sudden tempests, that the wind can blow in and work up quite a chop on those waves. This then, is what must’ve been happening on that evening. The sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew. And when they’d rode about five and 20 or 30 furlongs, they saw Jesus walking on the sea, drawing nigh unto the ship and they were afraid. Matthew said they cried out. They were so scared that they just hollered. [chuckle]
I have seldom been that frightened. I recall one occasion when I was going to make a call out some miles north of the college where I served for 23 years and where we lived. And I was gonna make a call north of there on an estate. And now, they had told me that they had some guard dogs, but I thought, “Oh, well, they’ll have them chained up now.” And so I got out of the car and went toward the entrance, the opening in the hedge that led toward the front door. The house was maybe 25 or 30 feet from there. And as I was walking, I heard this menacing growl and I saw a police dog who had been trained to guard the territory, heading toward me, and for the life of me, I couldn’t keep… I hollered at the dog, I said, “Hey!” [chuckle] Just hollered out. You know, you can get scared enough to cry out. That’s what the disciples did. They saw the Lord Jesus coming and they cried out. He said, “Be of good cheer, it’s I.” We’re gonna pick up the story there the next time we get together.
Dear Father in heaven, we love Thee, and we worship Thee, and we pray that Thou would give us the good sense to seek Thee in that hour of aloneness where thou Holy Spirit can speak to us. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Till I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today and be a blessing!
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