Mark 1:35 — 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.
I am still amazed at the thought of Jesus praying. As fully God, he has no unmet needs (see Devotion – Day 1…The Why of Prayer? — we need God). But as fully human, he has the same needs that we do…food, water, shelter, rest, God…I guess it makes it all the more profound just how much this human flesh prevents connection with our holy Father God. So when Jesus prays, it may be helpful to go about it the way that he does and to pray for the things he prays for.
Today’s Scripture reading points out that Jesus got up very early (while it was still dark) in the morning to pray. Oh, I can hear the great groan of the masses as they read that last line!!! I know for many of you morning doesn’t start till 10am!! (Or certainly not before coffee!!) And believe me, your body will object to this disturbance…but remember what we said about fasting…“our physical bodies cannot help us overcome a spiritual struggle.” Many of you have told me (and I’ve said it too), “if I get up early to pray or read my Bible I just fall asleep.” You’re in good company (or bad, depending on how you look at it), because when Jesus is praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, he is praying so intensely that sweat drops (like drops of blood) are falling off of him (and his disciples are supposed to be praying too) — But we find out, “When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. ‘Why are you sleeping?’ he asked them. ‘Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.’” (Luke 22:45-46)
I know it’s hard to pray early in the morning…believe me, I know. Nevertheless, there is something quite powerful about starting your day with prayer. It does several things:
It gives the First Fruit of your time to God. — Now some of you will say, “the morning hours are not the best part of me or my time.” That may be true. But it is certainly not the leftover of what you have either. It is acknowledging God with the first words you have in the morning. It is putting Him in mind as your very first thoughts. It reminds you to not forget Him all day and then suddenly say, “Oh yes, I almost forgot! Maybe I should thank God for my food, or ask God to help me in this situation now that I’ve worked my way into trouble!” It also sets the stage for speaking to your wife, your children, your coworkers, your boss…whoever you come into contact with — you are ready to speak with a mouth sanctified by communication with a holy God. It’s a lot harder to cuss at someone after you’ve just spoken with God (or it should be, at least).
It shows your body who’s boss. — Your body will fight back in innumerable ways, aches, pains, hunger, nausea, tiredness, weakness — and let’s be honest, most of the time it wins (it gets what it wants, sleep, food, medicine, etc.)…this is one way you can gain some victory over your body. You tell your body, “I don’t care if you’re tired…man up/woman up!” I’m calling the shots because the Holy Spirit has given me, not a Spirit of fear but a Spirit of Power and of Love and of Self-Control! When you weaken the flesh, the Spirit increases! When you deny the body sleep, it will be weaker and you will be tired — but your Spirit will be stronger and stronger!
It helps drown out distraction. — Distraction is the enemy. Satan may not be able to steal everything from us, but if he can distract us he can steal our time. If he can distract us, he can steal our focus. If he can distract us, he can steal our joy. Our verse says that Jesus went to a “solitary place.” Away from kids, spouse, work, hobbies, tv, cell phone, computer…the list starts to get big doesn’t it? Can you find solitude in the middle of the day? At the end? While you’re working? While you’re cleaning the house or fixing dinner? Maybe, and if you can great…but Jesus found solitude at the beginning of the day…before most anyone else was awake…while it was still dark. Because it is hard to fight distraction in all its forms throughout a 24-hour day that never stops. Sometimes you have to fight the fight on ground that already gives you an advantage. At least the kids are asleep. At least my phone is not ringing non-stop. At least I don’t have to be at work in 10 minutes and I’m late and I’m in a hurry and I need to…get on high ground to fight this battle against distraction, where you have at least a couple of advantages to start with. Find a solitary place.
When Jesus prays, he does so very early in the morning, in a solitary place.
Father God, thank You for Your Son Jesus. Thank You for the example He set for us in all things, but particularly in prayer. Help us to be more like Him in all things and in all ways. Help us to engage in prayer the way He did. Help us to fight off the pull of our bodies — your Son understands just how hard it is to resist the pull of our bodies toward temptation and sin. Thank You that we have victory over sin, death, and our bodies through the blood of Jesus. Thank You that we can be victorious over our sinful flesh…help us have more victories than defeats. But even if we do not have more success than failure, help us rest in Your grace and mercy that covers our sin and defeats even our failures. I love You, Father. And I ask for a restoration (or a new beginning) of the solitude and fellowship of early morning prayer with You for each end every one of my brothers and sisters (and for myself as well) in the Name above all names, in the Name of Jesus, Amen.