Prayer, Discernment, Wisdom
Today, we will encounter Jesus in prayer, and then we will see two very important
results of his prayer. The reading is divided into three parts: Place and Time;
Discernment; and Wisdom.
First, Place and Time:
Now during those days Jesus went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the
night in prayer to God (Luke 6:12).
This description of Jesus at prayer is the way most of us remember him: alone on the
mountain in a sustained prayer that lasts all the night through.
•This single sentence seems to speak volumes about Jesus’ devotion and singleheartedness
•Few people have that kind of intensity in their life of prayer, but it asks of us,
Jesus’ followers, whether we might not at least strive to increase our own intensity
•Luke notes both the time and the place of Jesus’ prayer. Many people experience a
special power in their prayer when it takes place in the night-time or the very early
morning. The monastic hour of “vigils” is a pre-dawn time for prayer, and even
some non-monastic Christians today continue this practice of prayer before the
start of day.
•The Gospel tells us that Jesus “went out to the mountain to pray.” Mountains were
traditionally seen as places where the presence of God is especially palpable. While
we often think of prayer as happening in a quiet interior space, Jesus most often
•We can also see (from what comes next) that Jesus must have turned his gaze from
that mountaintop, to look down upon the village he had left behind, because his
next actions relate directly to the human context, its needs and sorrows. On the
mountain, Jesus’ prayers link God and humankind in a chain of love, concern,
mercy, and healing.
And when day came, Jesus called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he
also named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, and
James, and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and
James son of Alphaeus, and Simon, who was called the Zealot, and Judas son of
James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor (Luke 6:13-16).
Something about Jesus’ experience in prayer led to his discernment of followers.
Immediately after coming down from the mountain, he calls Peter, Andrew, James,
and the rest.
•Perhaps you are familiar already with the historical and social context of Jesus’ life
and ministry. Much of what he did and taught overturned the conventions,
hierarchies, and values of the Roman Empire that dominated Galilee and Judea in
•He calls these fishermen and others, both men and women, to join him in
demonstrating that the ways of God give more abundant life than the ways of any
group that does not show God’s care for all.
Then Jesus delivers the core teachings of his ministry:
Jesus came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his
disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast
of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases;
and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all in the
crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of
Then he looked up at his disciples and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh… (Luke 6:17-21).
From “a level place,” the place where all hierarchies are flattened out, and God’s
way made plain, Jesus delivers his most important teachings in the Gospel of Luke.
In this sequence of Jesus’ solitary prayer in the night on the mountaintop, followed
by his calling of disciples and the teaching that we call the “beatitudes” (blessings),
we may gather a sense for the profound communication between God and Jesus that
occurred in his practice of prayer.
•Jesus puts prayer first, often praying even before the sun is up.
•Prayer connects Jesus both to God and to his neighbor.
•Prayer helps Jesus to discern how to proceed in carrying out the mission of God.
•Prayer is an aspect of Jesus’ process of discerning who needs to be a part of his
close community of disciples.
•Prayer is a source of inspiration and courage for doing the things of God.
•Prayer gives Jesus clarity about how to bring God’s values to bear on an unjust
•Prayer helps Jesus know what needs to be said and done, in order to help others
know how to live in right relationship with God and their neighbor.
Questions for Reflection
•Jesus’ practice of praying outdoors may give you some new thoughts about when
and where you pray. How can you prioritize prayer in your life? How might your
life of prayer more clearly connect with God’s concern for the world around you?
•Has prayer helped you in times of important discernment? What have you learned
about God and about yourself through your practice of prayer?
•How does your practice of prayer help you to integrate God’s values into your
•Is there one way in which you might want to consider deepening or adding fuel to
your life of prayer?
Loving God, you choose to hear the prayers of all who call upon you: inspire my
prayer, that by setting aside time to listen to you I may have greater clarity in
discernment and greater faithfulness in my way of life. This I ask in the Name of
Jesus, your Son and my Lord. Amen.