And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,
I find it compelling that Jesus spent concentrated time in prayer. Interspersed throughout the gospels are these recorded habits of intense prayer. Jesus seems to make it a regular habit to be alone with the Father. It is hard to know exactly how such a relationship worked, but the scriptures do not give theological commentary on it. They just record the activity.
The ESV Study Bible attempts to give some explanation: "In preparation for his mission into Gentile regions (see 15:21), and with his trials in Jerusalem impending, Jesus spends the evening and night in concentrated prayer with his heavenly Father." But even that is just a glimpse ahead to the change of focus in the text. We can really not know everything that Jesus did in this prayer retreat. To lay Gethsemane over every other text where Jesus gets alone to pray is probably a bad idea. Not all prayer is agonizing when it is long.
I think the take away thought for me in this passage is the need for extended time alone with God. It has been a LONG time since I have strategically done so. In fact, my memory only serves up an episode about 18 months ago. That needs to change, and soon. I am convicted that I have not taken a personal spiritual retreat in nearly two years now. I cannot expect to maintain ministry focus without following the example of my Lord. So it looks like I need to take a good look at my time, lay down driven agendas and paper plans and just get alone with God for at least half a day. And it ought to happen soon.