“Then Jesus got up early in the morning when it was still very dark, departed, and went out to a deserted place, and there he spent time in prayer.” —Mark 1:35
Jesus presents us with lots of action in this short sentence, leaving us with plenty examples to follow. Jesus clearly demonstrates the importance of the priority of prayer. He arises while it is still dark; He leaves the house sans coffee or bottled water or blanket or light; He goes off to a remote and private place and He prays to the One unseen. He withdrew to His private devotion setting for us an example of secret prayer as well as showing us the high priority He placed upon prayer in His life. He was forever getting away to remote places to be alone in conversation with His Father.
I am reminded of Jesus’ words to us in the Sermon on the Mount regarding this high calling:
“Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray while standing in synagogues and on street corners so that people can see them. Truly I say to you, they have their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.” —Matt 6:5–6
Jesus condemned repetitive prayers that were piously presented to impress human 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 eloquently reciting religious jargon without heart and primarily for show—the praise of others being their reward in full. Contrast their actions to Jesus who takes great pains to be alone with His Father—uninterrupted and focused. Jesus poured out His praise and petitions to the One He knew would hear and respond.
“And this is the confidence that we have before him: that whenever we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask, then we know that we have the requests that we have asked from him.” —1 John 5:14–15
Paul writes in Ephesians that believers may approach God in this incredibly high privilege of prayer with courage and boldness and freedom at any time. We are the great losers if we shirk this precious benefit choosing rather to go on in our own small strength—working out our own pitiful wills—in lieu of being directed by the God of all creation—the great I AM—equipped with His all achieving power. He lets us choose. Seriously, what are we thinking?
“Whom we have boldness and confident access to God because of Christ’s faithfulness.” —Ephesians 3:12
The writer of Hebrews adds:
“For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help.” —Hebrews 4:15–16
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 after interruptions keeping us from God’s best. Satan and self will provide intense distractions to prevent a saint from being on their knees. Keep at it—it is not impossible. Interestingly, if you do a study of the saints from the past—Chambers and Spurgeon and Moody and Mueller and others—you will discover the golden thread of the priority of prayer in each life as well as the exaltation of God’s Holy Word. God uses jars of clay greatly who pray and love His Word because when believers focus on God they change—not only themselves but the world around them.
“Prayer is a shield to the soul, a sacrifice to God, and a scourge to Satan.” —John Bunyan
“The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray.” —Samuel Chadwick
“The great tragedy of life is not unanswered prayer but unoffered prayer.” —F. B. Meyer
“Always rejoice, constantly pray, in everything give thanks. For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” —1 Thessalonians 5:16–18
the sovereign LORD helps me. Who dares to condemn me?
Look, all of them will wear out like clothes; a moth will eat away at them.
Who among you fears the LORD? Who obeys his servant?
Whoever walks in deep darkness, without light, should trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.” —Isaiah 50:9–10
“You know the value of prayer; it is precious beyond all price. Never, never neglect it.” —Thomas Buxton
“Jesus modeled for me the priority of prayer. Our attitude of surrender and dependence upon God is best evidenced by our prayer life.” —Chip Ingram
“And 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
is that mightiest of all weapons that created natures can wield.” —Martin