After Jesus and his disciples left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. 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. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
This gospel passage deals with Jesus’ ministry of healing people both physically and spiritually. While there is much to be said about this important, miraculous work of Jesus I want to draw your attention to another thing mentioned in this short passage from Mark. Looking at verse 35, we see Mark tell us that “In the morning, while it was still very dark, Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed”. As I was pondering and researching this verse I came across some notes that pointed out the intention Jesus displayed here. It wasn’t as if Jesus, quickly said his prayers, out of an act of responsibility, but rather he was intentional about getting up early, about finding a place where he’d not be distracted and about praying.
Mark doesn’t tell us what Jesus was praying about but we could perhaps guess that it has a lot to do with the fact that he was fully involved in this ministry of leading, teaching and healing. We are early in the gospel of Mark and already accounts of Jesus’ ministry include the calling of the first disciples, teaching in the Synagogue, casting out unclean spirits, healing those who were physically ill, all the while being questioned for it by the Jewish leaders. Not only was he showing his authority over the flesh but over the spiritual world as he commanded even the evil spirits in their actions. His ministry was so amazing and his teaching so profound that crowds of people were flocking to him on every side. Prayer for Jesus was a time where he could have moments alone with his Father, when he could rest in that intimate relationship, where his human self could be restored and refreshed and his divinity could be at peace with his Father. The fact that Jesus, tired and worn from his demanding ministry, made it a priority to pray shows us that prayer was important to him and that it should also be an essential part of our own relationship with God. If Jesus, God in the flesh, intentionally made time for prayer, shouldn’t we follow suit?
I have been talking a lot lately about each of us seeking God’s wisdom as we figure out where he is calling us to serve. We’ve been asking God to show us how he wants us to spread his Gospel of love. What skills, what talents, what means we are to use? We’ve been asking the Holy Spirit to fill us and show us who and where we are called to serve. So, if we are on this trajectory towards increased ministry, we need to follow our Savior’s example and be intentional about our prayer life.
When I was a baby my Dad would take me on walks in my stroller and while he walked he would pray. He was intentional about finding moments to spend with his heavenly Father. Most likely he had to escape the noisiness of my other 9 siblings at home. It was in a deep time of prayer, while he walked, where my Dad first felt God call him to start a newspaper. My Dad loves the passage from Isaiah 40:31 – “But those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” I remember magnets, calendars, little plaques and key chains with this verse on them. If you were even unsure what to get my dad for a gift, find something with an eagle or the verse written on it and he’d be happy. As long as I can remember my Dad has always had a deep unwavering faith and he has always been intentional about his prayer life. He has sought to share that faith and scripture through his newspaper, which he appropriately named The Eagle. A lot of people think that it was named the Eagle to show patriotism but really it was to show that out of faith and trust in God, we can rise up from the hardships, the difficulties, the struggles in this life and serve our Lord.
We all need to make time for God, real, quality time, every day and there are thousands of ways you can do that, so I am not going to tell you what to do, just that prayer needs to be a priority if you are going to take seriously your call to be a fisher of men and if you truly want to shine the light of Christ into the darkness. You need time in prayer to not only listen to God but to be restored and strengthened and to be brought up like the eagle.
We are approaching the season of Lent, a time we draw close to God and I encourage you to think over the next week and a half about how will your intensify your prayer life? What actions will you take to get up, go out, and pray? We don’t all need to do the same thing, we don’t all need to get up when it is still dark, we just need to make a plan, and choose to spend time with God.
When we pray we draw close the the Lord who Isaiah says is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the Earth, who doesn’t grow faint or grow weary. When we pray he gives us power when we feel faint, he strengthens us when we feel powerless. Prayer is a gift, we should use it, we should delight in it, knowing that through it we can draw closer and closer into the arms of God.