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Under the Night Sky

Always eager to learn about prayer, I am struck by how the Lord Jesus and others liked to pray outside, and to pray outside at night. Jesus loved to commune with Father as the darkness of night turned to light, and light graduated into darkness. This prayer habit of Jesus has something important to teach us.

Consider Jesus “In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him” (Mark 1:35-36). Here Jesus prays until the dark night turns to day. There is another time and place where Jesus “went out to the mountain to pray; and spent the night in prayer to God” (Luke 6:12).

We might assume that as an observant Jew some of Jesus’ prayer would have been spent chanting the psalms and meditating on God’s Word. Because we know that Jesus prayed with eyes looking heavenward (John 11:41; 17:1), we can imagine gazing upward at a star-spangled sky on clear Galilean nights.

As the Son of David, Jesus would have prayed just as David prayed at night while keeping watch over his sheep: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor” (Psalm 8:3-5).

Jesus went outside to pray at night not only to speak with Abba but to listen as Abba revealed Himself in the heavens: “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge” (Psalm 19:1-2). Jesus understood in His humanity that God poured forth speech and declared knowledge in the glories of His cosmos, and Jesus was eager to learn. Jesus followed in the way psalmists and prophets listened for God to speak in heaven’s high vault.

The prophet Amos was a shepherd (Amos 7:14) who spent many nights gazing at the sky and communing with God. Amos demonstrates a keen acquaintance and knowledge of the night sky as he praised God in song: “The one who made the Pleiades and Orion, and turns deep darkness into the morning, and darkens the day into night…the LORD is his name” (Amos 5:8). Years of observation taught Amos a familiarity with star clusters and constellations so that he knew the rising of the Pleiades heralded spring’s arrival, and the rising of Orion warned of the onset of winter. As Amos prayed, watched and listened, he could warn nations that the Lord is the moral Governor of the universe, who “turns darkness into the morning, and the darkens the day into night.” Amos prophesied, telling people if they would only repent and turn to the Lord, He would turn their darkness into day. But if they turned from the Lord they would wander, lost in gloom and despair.

There is so much to learn by taking time to talk with God under the stars at night, and to listen! I do not know your circumstances, but might the Lord be calling you to go outside and watch Him turn darkness into light at sunrise, and light into darkness at sunset? Why not linger with God under His night sky? There is so much to see, so much to learn. ‘Night to night the Lord declares knowledge.’

A fellow traveler

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