“Early in the morning, well before sunrise,
Jesus rose and went to a deserted place where he could be alone in prayer.”
Mark 1:35 (Common English Bible)
It was said of the disciples long ago that people held them in wonder and awe that they had been with Jesus. To be with one of the disciples was to experience one degree of separation from our Lord. That close proximity to Christ resulted in an experience of spiritual vitality and power. God’s love, and wisdom, and strength were no longer limited to one’s imagination as stories of Jesus’ life and ministry were shared. In the company of a disciple – or disciples – God’s presence seemed to come near. The vision of God’s glory grew more expansive in the heart as a result of being in the presence of one of the disciples. Perhaps that same fascination is what drives each of us to be photographed with those we admire. There is an unmistakable attraction and thrill to standing in the presence of those who have acquired a larger-than-life persona.
In this passage from Mark’s Gospel, Jesus had just finished a hard, grueling day. A similar day would follow. How could he be ready for it? What would be the spring of fresh physical, emotion, and spiritual strength from which he would drink? Mark gives us the answer and with it the key to Jesus’ vitality and stamina, “Early in the morning, well before sunrise, Jesus rose and went to a deserted place where he could be alone in prayer.” This one verse suggests the great wisdom of prayer: Every morning, draw from the inexhaustible power of God by drawing near to God’s presence. That is done in prayer. Once when a man was asked what he was doing each day sitting alone in a church, gazing upon a picture of Jesus, he answered, “I am simply looking at him and he is looking at me.” Prayer is time with God.
The weakest, humblest life can be made stronger when placed before God. As we pray, the Bible promises that God will be there. There will be days when God seems absent. The Psalms tells us this. Pray anyway. Know that God is present. Day after day the eyes of the soul become more sensitive to God, the heart more aware of God’s still small voice speaking. Eventually, prayer becomes that daily practice by which the individual soul becomes intertwined with the presence and strength of God. The fact of intimate communion with God is the great reality of true, regular prayer. In prayer we come to see ourselves surrounded by God’s love and concern for us as we begin each new day.
How strange, how foolish it must seem to God that we should be content with so little prayer. This particular occasion, mentioned in this one verse of scripture from Mark’s Gospel, was no unusual occurrence for Jesus. Jesus prayed often; Jesus prayed for himself and for others. Jesus took time for prayer before each day and before every difficult challenge that drew near to him. Jesus teaches prayer to us by example, for he knew from his own experience that prayer was a vital part of navigating the inevitable difficulties that each one of us must face. Today, many Christians are troubled by weakness, doubt, and fear, largely because they miss the help that prayer might provide. The greater wisdom of prayer is simply discovering – and experiencing – that we never have to face a day alone.