What Happens When Jesus Prays?
I’m both rebuked and encouraged by something I recently noticed in Mark 1 and the portrayal of the early days of our Lord’s earthly ministry. Mark 1:21-28 describes how Jesus entered the synagogue on a Sabbath day and taught powerfully and authoritatively. The “altar call” that followed was hardly typical of what we see today. Jesus was confronted with a demonized man whom he immediately set free. Continue reading . . .
I’m both rebuked and encouraged by something I recently noticed in Mark 1 and the portrayal of the early days of our Lord’s earthly ministry. Mark 1:21-28 describes how Jesus entered the synagogue on a Sabbath day and taught powerfully and authoritatively. The “altar call” that followed was hardly typical of what we see today. Jesus was confronted with a demonized man whom he immediately set free. We then read this:
And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon's mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them. That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. And he healed 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. And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed (Mark 1:29-35).
After preaching, after delivering the man from a demon in the synagogue, after healing Peter’s mother-in-law, one can well imagine that Jesus was looking forward to settling down with friends following a good, home-cooked meal, kicking off his sandals and getting a bit of well-deserved rest. Well, not exactly.
We need to remember that the Sabbath extended from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday. During this time the Jews were forbidden to work or travel. This is why it wasn’t until after sunset on Saturday that the crowds showed up on Peter’s doorstep.
And if the people didn’t show up until sundown, you can bet that Jesus was occupied with the crowds for a long time; most likely late into the night. He prayed for them all! According to Luke 4:32, our Lord’s standard practice was to lay hands on every one of them! When I preach and then pray for a half dozen folk, laying hands on them, I’m exhausted. I cherish my Sunday afternoon nap. I’m not the most pleasant person in the world when it gets interrupted!
Yet here is Jesus, on a typical day, ministering into the late hours of the night. When he finally did get to bed, you would think he’d seize the opportunity to get in some much needed sleep. He had every right to push the snooze button and sleep in. I doubt if any of us have ever had a day like Jesus.
But what do we read in Mark 1:35? He rose from sleep “very early in the morning, while it was still dark!” Why? To pray!
I realize that for many of you, the words “very early in the morning, while it was still dark” mean absolutely nothing, especially on Sunday! Given the lateness of your arrival for your service I suspect that such is very much the case on Sunday mornings.
May I suggest that it was precisely because Jesus devoted himself to prayer in this manner that he found the spiritual and physical energy to give himself in ministry to those who came to him with their diseases and their demons. Perhaps Jesus requested from the Father the patience necessary to deal with so many demands. Perhaps Jesus asked that he be filled with a spirit of love and compassion lest he grow resentful of all that was expected of him. Perhaps he prayed for spiritual discernment in knowing the nature and source of certain illnesses, etc.
In any case, prayer was at the heart of our Lord’s life and ministry.
So what accounts for this remarkable display of devotion and dedication to hurting people? How are we supposed to make sense of this kind of schedule? I’m convinced it was the result of a combination of his love for people, his compassion for the hurting, his consistency in prayer, together with the authoritative power of the kingdom of God. This is what happens when the kingdom of God breaks into this world, into the darkness of sin, into the depths of demonic influence, into the disabling power of disease. When combined with his compassion, his heart for the hurting, kingdom power brings freedom. Oh, yes, and it would also help if we likewise would rise early in the morning to pray!