As Christians, we ought to look to our Lord as the ultimate example of service. What the Bible reveals about what He did for people during the brief time He lived on this earth stirs within us a desire imitate Him who, “…came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Our Lord gave up His place in heaven to relate to mankind in a very personal way (John 1:14; Philippians 2:4-7). He was very present with each individual with whom He came in contact, and His one-on-one work with individuals left them forever changed (John 4). The multitudes thronged about Him (Luke 8:42), and He had compassion on them because they were as sheep having no shepherd (Mark 6:34). Whether it was early in the morning (Luke 21:38) or late at night (John 3:2), He made Himself available to assist people in learning the truth that would save their souls.
However, the One who came down from heaven did not spent all of His time healing people and answering questions about God’s word. He also spent time alone in prayer and meditation. Even though His overall mission was to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10), He on occasions withdrew Himself (Luke 5:16). In fact He did not even begin public service until the proper age of thirty (Luke 3:23). Think about it. If Jesus spent time growing in knowledge and wisdom before embarking on His public ministry (Luke 2:52), and if He spent time helping His disciples learn before sending them out into all the world to continue the work (Mark 1:17; John 14:9), then should we not spend time preparing to serve prior to embarking into service?
Ecclesiastes 10:10 says, “If the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength: but wisdom is profitable to direct.” Is it wisdom’s course to take time to sharpen the ax before laying into the tree? Yes. Though no tree chopping is taking place during the sharpening process, the overall process of felling the tree will be more efficient with a sharp blade. Satan has made sure that we have plenty of false ideas growing up all around us. Now we can hack away at them with a dull ax and eventually get the job done, but we can cut down much more of the forest of falsehoods if we have spent the proper time getting sharp. It makes sense to take some time preparing to do the work God has given us to do.
Thus time alone in study and prayer is not selfish, it can actually be a part of service to others. Wouldn’t your time spent in relating to others in evangelism or edification be helped by your own personal development? What if you knew the exact passage to direct some to that would help their misunderstanding? What if you did not overreact to an insult because you had spent quality time in prayer that day? What if you had so prepared yourself that you could be a blessing to everyone who would see your example or seek your counsel? That is what Jesus did. Though there are a host of differences between Jesus and us due to His nature as God in the flesh, He still spent time preparing and we should too.