Skip to Content

Did Jesus have a quiet time?

Having a consistent quiet time or devotional each day is an important spiritual discipline for many Christians today. But did Jesus himself have a regular quiet time? Let’s take a look at what the Gospels tell us about Jesus’ spiritual practices and see if we can find an answer.

What was a “quiet time” in Jesus’ day?

First, it’s important to understand what we mean by “quiet time.” The term is not found in the Bible, but refers to the practice of spending regular alone time with God in prayer, Bible reading, and meditation. This quiet time is aimed at developing intimacy with God, hearing from Him, and growing spiritually.

In Jesus’ day, spiritual disciplines looked somewhat different than they do today. Regular Bible reading was not possible, as the Scriptures were not compiled into a single volume yet. And Jewish traditions around prayer involved set times of prayer, especially connected to temple worship. So a modern-style quiet time was not part of Jewish practice in Jesus’ day.

Jesus spent time alone with God

While the Gospels do not speak of Jesus having a dedicated daily quiet time, they do show Him frequently withdrawing to solitary places for prayer:

  • After healing many who were sick, Jesus “withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16)
  • Before choosing the 12 disciples, Jesus “went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God” (Luke 6:12)
  • After feeding the 5,000, Jesus “dismissed the crowd and went up on a mountainside by himself to pray” (Matthew 14:23)
  • Jesus rose “very early in the morning, while it was still dark,” to find a solitary place to pray (Mark 1:35)

Jesus made a habit of seeking time alone with His heavenly Father, away from the pressures of ministry and the demands of others. Clearly solitude and prayer were priorities in His spiritual life.

Jesus’ prayer topics

The Gospels give us glimpses into what Jesus prayed about in His alone times with the Father:

  • Guidance: He prayed all night before selecting His 12 disciples (Luke 6:12-13)
  • Strength: He prayed in Gethsemane for courage to face the cross (Mark 14:32-42)
  • Intercession: He prayed for Peter’s faith to be strengthened (Luke 22:32)
  • God’s will: In Gethsemane He prayed “not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42)

Jesus’ time alone with the Father was filled with petition and intercession. He sought God’s direction, strength, and will in prayer.

Jesus modeled secret fasting

In addition to private prayer, Jesus fasted in secret as part of His spiritual disciplines:

  • When questioned why His disciples did not fast, Jesus replied that for now they did not fast, but “the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast” (Matthew 9:15)
  • Jesus assumed His followers would fast, teaching on how to fast secretly rather than to be seen by others (Matthew 6:16-18)

While no specific instances of Jesus fasting are recorded, He clearly fasted secretly during His earthly ministry as an example to His followers.

Jesus experienced solitude in nature

We also see Jesus frequently withdrew to natural settings for solitude and prayer:

  • After healing many sick, Jesus “withdrew to lonely places” (Luke 5:16)
  • Jesus went up on a mountainside to pray alone (Matthew 14:23)
  • He often retreated to the Mount of Olives to pray (Luke 22:39)

Being in nature provided space for Jesus to be alone with His Heavenly Father and pray apart from crowds and interruptions.

Jesus engaged in all-night prayer

On at least two occasions, Jesus spent all night in prayer:

  • Before choosing the Twelve, “Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God” (Luke 6:12)
  • In Gethsemane He told His disciples, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Then He fell to the ground and prayed throughout the night (Matthew 26:38-39, Mark 14:34-35)

Setting aside extended periods of time for intense, focused prayer was a habit of Jesus.

Jesus sacrificed sleep for prayer

Jesus sacrificed sleep in order to spend time praying alone to the Father. Besides His all-night prayer sessions, we also see Jesus rising very early to pray:

  • “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35)

Jesus intentionally deprived Himself of sleep for the purpose of interceding to the Father and seeking His will in prayer.

Jesus experienced deep emotional prayers

Far from being a detached ritual, Jesus’ times of prayer involved deep emotion and fervency:

  • At Gethsemane, Jesus was “deeply distressed and troubled” and His soul was “overwhelmed by sorrow” as He prayed (Mark 14:33-34)
  • Hebrews 5:7 describes Jesus offering “prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears” in His earthly ministry
  • The Gospel accounts portray Jesus as being intensely moved in prayer to the point of sweating blood (Luke 22:44)

For Jesus, prayer was not just a spiritual discipline but a way of pouring out His soul intensely to the Father.

Jesus prayed spontaneously

While Jesus clearly made a habit of withdrawing for intentional prayer time, He also prayed spontaneously as needs arose:

  • At Lazarus’ tomb, Jesus “looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me.'” (John 11:41)
  • At the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus blessed and broke the loaves “giving thanks” (Matthew 15:36)
  • Jesus looked up to heaven and prayed out loud before raising Lazarus and before feeding the five thousand (John 11:41, Matthew 14:19)

Jesus turned to the Father constantly, praying short prayers in the moment as situations prompted.

Jesus prayed aloud with others

While solitary prayer was a key practice, Jesus also frequently prayed aloud with His disciples and in public settings:

  • Jesus prayed aloud at Lazarus’ tomb so that the people would believe (John 11:41-42)
  • He prayed aloud with His disciples present on multiple occasions (Matthew 14:19, Luke 9:28)
  • John 17 records Jesus praying an extended prayer aloud in the presence of His disciples

Jesus’ prayer life included both private solitary prayer as well as public audible prayer.

Summary of Jesus’ prayer habits

In summary, here are some key habits that characterized Jesus’ spiritual life and prayer:

Practice Verse examples
Solitude Mark 1:35, Luke 5:16
All-night prayer Luke 6:12
Sacrificing sleep Mark 1:35
Alone in nature Luke 6:12, Mark 1:35
Guidance Luke 6:12-13
Strength Mark 14:32-42
Intercession Luke 22:32
God’s will Luke 22:42
Fasting Matthew 6:16-18
Emotional prayers Mark 14:33-34
Spontaneous prayers John 11:41
Public prayer John 11:41-42

Conclusions on Jesus’ prayer life

Based on the Gospel accounts, we can draw several conclusions about Jesus’ prayer habits:

  • Jesus did not have a formal quiet time as is common today, but He did have a habit of withdrawing for intentional prayer.
  • Solitude, nature, the night hours, and prayer were deeply intertwined for Jesus.
  • Prayer fueled Jesus’ earthly ministry. Major decisions and works flowed out of prayer.
  • Jesus’ prayers involved expressing reverent submission to the Father as well as intense emotion and tears.
  • Jesus prayed both privately and publicly, spontaneously and intentionally, in stillness and action.

In summary, Jesus lived a life marked by regular habits of intentional, fervent prayer and communion with His Heavenly Father. His example clearly demonstrates the vital priority of prayer in the life of faith. His habits of prayer provide models for us as we seek to develop a robust spiritual life.

Further reading:

  • Bounds, E.M. The Reality of Prayer. New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 1982.
  • Carson, D.A. Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2014.
  • Willard, Dallas. The Spirit of the Disciplines. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988.