A Desert Place

Man of Sorrows” (detail) by William Dyce

When Jesus learned that John the Baptist was dead, “he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart” (Matthew 14:13), or as we might say, an isolated place, a place where He could be alone. A large number of people found Him, and, “moved with compassion,” He taught them, healed their sick, and fed them. But after they had eaten, He sent His disciples and the multitude away and “went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone” (Matthew 14:23).

This is not the only time Jesus sought solitude. At the beginning of His ministry, He spent forty days in the wilderness. (See Matthew 4:1-2.) Shortly after, while staying in Peter’s home, early one morning, “rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed” (Mark 1:35). Before calling the twelve apostles, “he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God” (Luke 6:12). And of course, at Gethsemane, He asked His apostles to wait for Him, while He went further to pray alone. (See Matthew 26:36-39.)

Nephi found solitude to be useful and necessary. While he and his family were encamped in a place they called Bountiful, he heard the Lord say, “Arise, and get thee into the mountain” (1 Nephi 17:7). His subsequent experience of praying away from other people was so impactful that it became a pattern for him: “I, Nephi, did go into the mount oft, and I did pray oft unto the Lord; wherefore the Lord showed unto me great things” (1 Nephi 18:3).

Of course, the effort required to be alone can vary depending on our circumstances. Some people can fairly easily get away while for others, particularly mothers of young children, it may require extra planning and support from family or friends.

Years ago, President David O. McKay, then a counselor in the First Presidency of the Church, gave the following advice:

In secret prayer go into the room, close the door, pull down the shades, and kneel in the center of the room. For a period of five minutes or so, say nothing. Just think of what God has done for you, of what are your greatest spiritual and temporal needs. When you sense that, and sense his presence, then pour out your soul to him in thanksgiving.

The Lord’s Sacrament,” in Conference Report, April 1946, 114

Today, I will find time to be alone and to draw closer to God. I will remember the example of the Savior and of Nephi in the land of Bountiful. I will remember that I may need time to quiet my mind before I am able to hear the messages He wants to give me.

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