Commenting on Luke 5:16, “And [Jesus] withdrew Himself into the wilderness and prayed”, J.C. Ryle (1816-1900) has these very challenging words of exhortation:
“We see, lastly, in this passage, our Lord Jesus Christ’s diligence about private prayer. Although great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by him of their infirmities, He still made time for secret devotion. Holy and undefiled as He was He would not allow the demands of public business to prevent regular private communion with God. We are told that He withdrew himself into the wilderness and prayed.
“There is an example set before us here, which is much overlooked in these latter days. There are few professing Christians, it may be feared, who strive to imitate Christ in this matter of private devotion. There is abundance of hearing, and reading, and talking, and profession, and visiting, and almsgiving, and subscribing to societies, and teaching at schools. But is there, together with all this, a due proportion of private prayer? Are believing men and women sufficiently careful to be frequently alone with God? These are humbling and heart-searching questions. But we shall find it useful to give them an answer.
“Why is it that there is so much apparent religious working, and yet so little result in positive conversions to God – so many sermons, and so few souls saved – so much machinery, and so little effect produced – so much running here and there, and yet so few brought to Christ? Why is all this? The reply is short and simple. There is not enough private prayer. The cause of Christ does not need less working, but it does need among the workers more praying. Let us each examine ourselves, and amend our ways. The most successful workmen in the Lord’s vineyard, are those who are like their Master, often and much upon their knees.”