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Picture it: Jesus and His disciples stay in the home of friends. It has been a long day. Jesus was preaching, and the disciples listened and watched the reactions of the people around them. Some asked sincere questions. Others asked tricky questions in order to trap Jesus in an untruth—as if anyone could trick God into saying something He shouldn’t. The disciples watched God at work. They ate with Him. They lived with Him day in and day out.
It was time to sleep. Soon, the disciples had found places for their mats in the courtyard. In minutes, one could hear soft breathing and louder snoring.
The next morning, after sunrise and before breakfast, the disciples tucked their Bibles under their arms and headed outside to read and pray.
Or did they?
I’m being facetious. For one thing, the Bible hadn’t yet been completed, and it certainly wasn’t printed in neat little books. The disciples did know the Word, though. They knew the Old Testament, and they had the Word Incarnate living with them. They could hear His Words—from the lips of God Himself—every day. Can you imagine it?
Think of the Sermon on the Mount, preached to the disciples, and passed on to us in the Bible. We have snippets of these God-to-persons teaching opportunities, but the disciples lived them every day.
They walked with Jesus, ministered beside Jesus, watched Him, and listened to Him. They grew in their faith. They learned to trust Him to do great things. The disciples changed from the time they left their fishing nets and tax table to their powerful preaching in Jerusalem after the resurrection. They knew Jesus!
So, did they take time apart to pray?
We know Jesus did. He would make time to talk to His Father, to commune with Him. (Matthew 14:23; 26:36; Mark 6:46; Luke 6:12; 11:1; John 17:1)
It must have been so different with the disciples. Every day, they had only to talk to Jesus in order to share with Him. They listened to Jesus and heard His Words. They walked with Him, ate with Him, and slept where He slept. Basically, they were always with Him. So, they had all-day fellowship with God.
As should we.
Do you remember when the disciples of John the Baptist and the Pharisees criticized the disciples for not fasting?* What was Jesus’ response? Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast (Matthew 9:15).
The disciples didn’t need to fast and pray, since the Lord was right there with them, and they could freely communicate with Him. I think the same principle might have affected their quiet time habits. They had the unique privilege of hearing the Words of God from the mouth of God in the flesh! They could ask Him any question, ask Him to help others, ask Him to help them, and they walked and talked with Him. They had a closeness with Jesus that no one else ever experienced.
Now, the disciples did understand that prayer was important. After all, they’d watched Jesus praying. In Luke 11:1, they said, Lord, teach us to pray. And, Jesus taught them in what we know as The Lord’s Prayer.
So, what’s the practical application?
The Lord Jesus ascended to heaven. Even though God is everywhere, He isn’t here in a flesh-and-blood sense, as He was back when Jesus was on the earth. So, just as the disciples would fast after Christ ascended, so we will set aside time for the Bible and prayer.
In the New Testament, we see the early church holding prayer meetings and studying the Bible. (Examples: Prayer—Acts 12:12; Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 4:3. Bible study—Acts 17:11)
In order to grow in our faith, we must ingest the Word of God. As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby (1 Peter 2:2). It’s essential. And once we’ve grown a little bit, we can take on solid foods. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil (Hebrews 5:14).
We need a quiet time. We need the Bible and communion in prayer with the Lord. We need the local church and the encouragement of other believers. These are important elements for our spiritual growth.
Did the disciples have personal devotions? Probably not.
Do we need them? Yes! Yes! Yes!
But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith,
praying in the Holy Ghost,
Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling,
and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,
To the only wise God our Saviour,
be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.
(Jude 20, 24-25)
* These questions are found in Matthew 9:14; Mark 2:18; and Luke 5:33.