According to Saint Luke, Jesus prayed all night one evening and made it “habit” to rise early in the morning and find a place of solitude to pray. I have wondered why the perfect man had any need to spend hours—even nights in prayer?
After all, He was God’s holy Son and was flawless and had no “wants” that He could not have provided for Himself in an instant. What in the world, I wondered, could He have been asking for? What did He not understand or need clarification regarding?
Or, was it something else? Was there something else that He needed—-or missed—that He was earnestly seeking or desiring? Was it, perhaps, the fellowship and sweet intimacy that He craved and was it not merely a chance to beg God for His blessings?
I heard a story about Saint Francis that illustrates the point. One of his first followers was Bernard of Quintavalle. Bernard admired Francis from a distance, but wanted to make sure that Francis was truly what he appeared to be—-i.e. a living saint—before he aligned himself with Francis’ group. So Bernard, who was quite wealthy, asked Francis if he would accept an invitation to spend the night at his home. That evening Bernard invited Francis into his own bedroom where a small light was kept burning all night.
Francis feel asleep fast, but Bernard feigned sleep and was actually watching and listening to see what Francis would do. Francis, who believed that Bernard was soundly asleep, arose from his bed and began to pray with his eyes and arms raised toward heaven. Then, to the surprise of Bernard, Francis began to pray aloud, “My God and my all!” With Bernard watching the entire time, Francis kept repeating that prayer and weeping with incredible intensity until morning. Francis kept saying again and again, “My God and my all,” with such love and joy, and it was as if God was somehow responding back to Francis with unimaginable approval and love to that little saint. Then he then slipped quietly back into bed, thinking that Bernard was aware of nothing.
But when morning came, Bernard made up his mind to do whatever was required to have a relationship with God such as Francis had. He sold all he had and became a fellow monk with Saint Francis for the rest of his life. (Oh that my life might inspire others like this!!!)
Jesus knew His Father’s love so intimately that He sought that time alone with the “Lover of His soul” as often as He could for no other purpose than “having” God. And He made these special times happen, busy and pressed though He was, earnestly, privately, and with great expectation. So too Saint Francis learned of God’s love and lived a life sharing that love—first with Bernard and then with tens of thousands of others.
Do I pray like that and yearn for Him each morning like that? Do I understand not only the need, but the sublime joy of being alone with Him in prayer for the entire night? Have I experienced the depth of God’s love like this? In truth, I do not pray long enough, alone enough or with the intensity of “anticipation” that I should………but I have been seeking Him more and more in the wee hours of the morning…when no one else is awake…..and then I find myself not wanting to leave that place or His presence.