Following Jesus Today: Prayer and Purpose

By Mark D. Roberts

June 30, 2020

Following Jesus Today

Scripture – Luke 4:42-44; 5:15-16 (NRSV)

At daybreak he departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowds were looking for him; and when they reached him, they wanted to prevent him from leaving them. But he said to them, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.” So he continued proclaiming the message in the synagogues of Judea.

But now more than ever the word about Jesus spread abroad; many crowds would gather to hear him and to be cured of their diseases. But he would withdraw to deserted places and pray.


Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus chose purpose over popularity. His clarity about his life’s purpose and his ability to choose this over other tempting options were supported by his practice of prayer. Jesus often withdrew from the crowds in order to engage in conversation with his Heavenly Father. This clarified his sense of purpose and strengthened his resolve to do what he had been called to do. Similarly, you and I need time alone with God if we’re to know and to fulfill our purpose in life. Prayer elucidates and energizes purpose.


In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we noted the growing popularity of Jesus. Even when he escaped from the crowds to go to “a deserted place” (Luke 4:24), they pursued him, trying to get him to stay with them. But Jesus explained that he needed to preach the good news of the kingdom of God in other cities. “For I was sent for this purpose,” he said. Jesus chose purpose over popularity.

Why was he able to do this? What helped Jesus to be so clear about his purpose and to act decisively in light of it? We get a hint of an answer to this question in Luke 4:42, where it says that Jesus went to “a deserted place.” This hint is fleshed out in more detail in Luke 5:15-16. This passage highlights the popularity of Jesus once again, adding “But he would withdraw to deserted places and pray.” The Greek original emphasizes the repeated nature of Jesus’s actions. He often left the crowds for places in which he could be alone.

And what did Jesus do there? According to Luke 5:16, Jesus prayed. Unfortunately, Luke does not fill us in on the content of Jesus’s wilderness prayers. All we know is that he would regularly get away for a time of solitude, in which he would pray. But it seems likely that his practice of prayer enabled Jesus to gain clarity about his purpose. He did not let popularity govern his behavior because he knew what his Heavenly Father had called him to do.

Notice that Jesus exemplifies, not just occasional prayer, but a consistent practice of getting alone to pray. It’s not as if he goes out once and prays, “Father, show me my purpose.” Rather, Jesus’s clarity of purpose comes through his consistent conversation with God.

The example of Jesus encourages us to do likewise. If we want to know our life’s purpose, if we want to be able to decline that which would distract us from what we’re on this earth to do, then we need to establish a practice of regular prayer. We may not be able to withdraw to a deserted place very often, but we can find time, even in our busy days, to get alone for conversation with God. If this was essential for Jesus, surely it should be essential for us as well.


Can you think of times in your life when, through prayer, you were able to clarify your purpose?

Do you have a regular discipline of getting alone with God for prayer? If so, what helps you to maintain this practice? If not, what makes it hard for you to do this?


Set aside some time this week for a conversation with God about your purpose in life. If you can get away to “a deserted place” for this prayer, that’s great. But, even if not, find a time and place when you can be alone with your Heavenly Father.


Lord Jesus, thank you for modeling for us the practice of prayer. Your example both encourages and challenges us.

Help me, Lord, to make time in my busy life for prayer. As I talk with you, help me to know more clearly my purpose in life. Give me the strength to live in light of that purpose, saying “no” even to good things that would distract me. May I devote all that I am each day to fulfilling your purpose for me.

To you be all the glory! Amen.

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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling Archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: When God Needed to Pray

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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