Jesus, the Unlikely Apprentice II

Shaped in Solitude

Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from [being baptized in] the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil for forty days.    Luke 4:1-2a

Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went to an isolated place to pray.    Mark 1:35

One day soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night. At daybreak he called together all of his disciples and chose twelve of them to be his apostles.    Luke 6:12-13

Baptisms are a time for celebration and community. It is time to party. And we see some of that at the baptism of Jesus—God affirms Jesus’ belovedness. But then there is no party.  The Holy Spirit immediately leads Jesus…not to town, not to a palace, not to a party, but into the desert, the wilderness. Jesus is alone. The Holy Spirit must have thought, I presume, that there was something valuable about solitude.

Throughout his ministry Jesus returned to the desert, to the desolate place. He experienced something there that strengthened him and energized him. He found renewal in the desolate places. It is where he went when he felt pressed by the crowds, when he felt “busy.” It is where he went when he had to make a significant decision like choosing his apostles. It is where he went when he felt overwhelmed by his feelings like in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Sometimes we simply need to be alone. Even with his disciples, Jesus would separate himself from them. Sometimes it is important to be alone even when intimate, close friends are available.

Jesus was comfortable with himself and could be alone. His “alone time” was not loneliness, but solitude. Some people are lonely when they are alone—they are uncomfortable with themselves and they cling to others in needy desperation. Some people are too busy to be alone and even when they are alone they are easily distracted by the busy-ness of life.  Some people don’t want to be alone (certainly not silent) because they are afraid to face their true selves and consequently they need the distractions.

Being alone, however, is more than just being with oneself. Being alone is not loneliness when we find companionship with God in those times. It is not withdrawal in the sense of isolation but the pursuit of God through communion (prayer) for the sake of renewal or recreation.

When we are too busy to “recreate” with God, then life has distracted us from our true essence. When we are too uncomfortable with ourselves, then we have not faced the truth about ourselves in God’s presence. When we are lonely when alone, then we have not embraced the joy of solitude with God.

Jesus pursued God in that solitude. Some of Jesus’ vigils would be early morning, some would be all night. Sometimes something (or someone) is more important than sleep (yes, it is true!). Sometimes prayer was more important than sleep. Has it ever been for you? It was for Jesus.

Jesus found time for solitude. His discipleship began in the desert alone with God. His solitude—his companionship with God—fueled his ministry; it energized his other relationships. If he was discipled by solitude and apprenticed through solitude, perhaps…just perhaps…so should we.

When life is so busy that I am too tired to pray, too tired to sit quietly, too tired to seek God in solitude, then life is too busy. My fatigue has not only a physical but a spiritual root. I have no energy because I am not plugged into the one who is himself Energy. I have no spiritual power because I have no time for God—no time for just him. That is not only too busy, it is idolatry.

Note:  Part I is available here.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Do you think Jesus “needed” those times alone with the Father? What did he “need” and why did he “need” them?
  2. Why is it so hard for human beings to be alone without being lonely? Why do we find it so difficult to be alone with God? What distracts us or repels us about spending time alone with God?
  3. Do you remember those “all-nighters” you pulled at work or in college in order to get something done, to meet a deadline? Have you ever felt that way about prayer or solitude with God? If you remember an occasion, share it with others.
  4. Share with the group what practices or routines you have found helpful? What helps you ignore the distractions and focus on being with God?

8 Responses to “Jesus, the Unlikely Apprentice II”

  1.   John King Says:

    John Mark,

    Great post on the discipline of solitude. When Jesus explains the Parable of the Sower (Mt. 13:18-24) to his disciples, he points out that the natural fruitfulness of the seed is lacking in the rocky soil and among the thorns. He notes that in certain lives, “the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.” You are correct in identifying this as idolatry.

    Solitude with God–intimate relationship with the Father–is the only corrective to the problem of the life like the rocky soil–“he has no root, he lasts only a short time.”

    I appreciate your passion for spirituality. Thank you for working the twelfth step. Thank you for using this media to encourage others to experience a spiritual awakening, too.

    John King

  2.   Adam G. Says:

    It was much easier to get “alone time” growing up on a farm in Missouri. Here in the NYC metro-area I find it almost impossible, especially being the father of a family.

    Years ago I saw solitude described as one of the spiritual disciplines. Only in recent times have I understood that description.

  3.   John Mark Hicks Says:

    Adam, I thought there was a movie about “Home Alone in New York.” 🙂 I can appreciate the difference between growing up on a Missouri farm and living in a home with children in New York–though I have done neither. You are too funny. 🙂

    John, thanks for the encouragement, my friend.

    This year, particularly this year, I have learned the value of solitude and appreciate it more than I ever had previously. In my past solitude was opportunity to “get something done,” but now it is opportunity–at times–to be with God.

    Blessings, John Mark

  4.   paula Says:

    I think we all need time alone with God but many may feel intimidated in doing so. A time for reflection isn’t good when we’re not living the way we should.

    Good thoughts.

  5.   John Mark Hicks Says:


    I understand the hesitation to be with God in our sinfulness. It is quite a fearful thing.

    But I think the problem there is our conception of God. When we think God will shame us, beat us up, slap us around, be disappointed with us, etc., then we certainly don’t want to be alone with him.

    On the other hand, if we belive that God himself yearns for that time with us, loves us just as he loves his own Son, forgives us, then we will run to that time rather than run away from it.

    This is part of the power of “The Shack” as it gives us a way to visualize God’s reception of us even while he sits in our dirty shacks waiting for us to meet him there. See my post at

    Blessings, Paula,

    John Mark

  6.   paula Says:

    I’ve heard about the book for some time now from friends. Will have to find a copy.

    Thanks 🙂

  7.   preacherman Says:

    Wonderful thoughts and words for us.
    Thank you for taking the time to share this with us.
    I know for me it time well spent reading.
    It always it.
    Keep up the great work brother.

  8.   K. Rex Butts Says:

    Some of the problem with being alone has nothing to do with spiritual reasons but physical. I have stuggled with attention disorder all my life. Quietness is a killer for me. My mind cannot stay focused unless it is occupied with something. That is why I dislike the Lord Supper when we just all sit in quiet meditation. Please someone, just sing a song or read some scripture so that my mind can see, hear, and thus think.

    Grace and peace,


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