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)
In this short sentence, Mark describes a lot of action, giving us several examples to follow. In this verse, Jesus clearly demonstrates the importance of prayer. He arises while it is still dark; He leaves the house without Starbucks or bottled water or blanket or light; He goes off to a remote and private place; and He prays fervently to His Father.
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:5-6)
Jesus shunned and condemned repetitive prayers that were piously presented to simply impress men’s ears.
This appeared to be the habit of the religious elite of His day. Ever wanting to impress others, they would stand in the synagogue and on the street corners espousing religious jargon without heart and primarily for show. Their reward? Only to be seen by men. Contrast their actions with our Lord who takes great pains to be alone with God–uninterrupted and focused. Alone with his Father, free to express His heart fully, Jesus poured out His praise and petitions to the One He knew would hear and respond. Again, we would do well to do likewise. John writes:
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us–whatever we ask–we know that we have what we asked of him. (1 John 5:14-15)
In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. (Ephesians 3:12)
The writer of Hebrews explains:
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)
Take It to Heart
Prayer is definitely serious business as well as difficult work. Distractions prevail when we seek to take prayer seriously: We oversleep; the baby cries; the phone rings; there are interruptions we never imagined keeping us from God’s best. Satan will provide any type of distraction to prevent a person from being on their knees. Keep at it–it is not impossible! If you do a study of the some of the great Christian writers–Chambers and Spurgeon and Moody and Mueller–you will discover the priority of prayer in each life as well as the exaltation of God’s Holy Word. God uses those who pray and love His Word. When believers focus on God, they change–not only themselves but the world around them.
“Prayer is a great indicator of where we’re at, because prayer mirrors the condition of our heart–whether we’re surrendered to God’s plan or leaning on our own self-effort for the outcome.” (Chip Ingram)
“Prayer is that mightiest of all weapons that created natures can wield.” (Martin Luther)
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)