Mark 1 verse 35
Why did Jesus head for the wilderness, that morning, to pray?
[Wasn’t he God … but he was also fully human!]
- Maybe because he was tired or a bit overwhelmed – Jesus had been expending his heart of compassion through healing and restoring people to community
- Maybe because of the complex challenges ahead – facing off against (immense) evil (verses 32, 34, 39). WHEN YOUR INTENT IS TO SHARE THE GOSPEL, YOU WILL LIKELY ENCOUNTER A WHOLE LOT MORE … FOR THE GOSPEL WITH ITS CALL FOR REPENTANCE (FROM ALL UNGODLY BEHAVIOUR) TOUCHES THE WHOLE EXPERIENCE OF LIFE IN COMMUNITY
- To be undistracted, or at least to reduce distraction, in seeking God
- To gain some solitude, where he would only hear God
- To be refreshed …
We should note that Jesus, when disturbed by Simon Peter (& the others), willingly responded immediately.
THIS IS CRUCIAL FOR OUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE CONNECTION BETWEEN PRAYER AND MISSION.
To be “hunted” for (v.36), and spoken to with that level of insistence (“everyone is searching for you”) may have been very off-putting.
What was up with these disciples we might wonder? Maybe they disapproved of prayer, or didn’t understand it, or were just so harried by the crowds and anxious about things!? Yet, Jesus, rather than castigating his disciples, went off with them. Perhaps unknowingly the disciples were right on the money.
This shows that Jesus’ time of prayer was not escapist or separatist or self-serving, BUT RATHER ENERGY-FUELLING FOR THE MISSION AHEAD.
To connect with people, with redemptive intent, is what Jesus came to do.
Jesus’ prayer actually propelled him back into the mission for which he was sent – proclaiming the good news throughout the neighbourhoods, and liberating people from all sorts of captivity.
So … what was Jesus doing in prayer – what was Jesus praying about or for??
This would have been much more than just a ‘wish-list’. After all, even the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ keeps the ‘wish-list’ to a minimum, and even in referring to “our daily bread”, this was more an acknowledgement of God’s faithfulness, and our need of trust. The rest (of the Lord’s Prayer) was primarily about our engagement with God’s will, i.e. worshipping, serving, reforming, forgiving and enduring.
So, what was happening in the wilderness that morning???
- Keeping in touch with God: this, for Jesus, would have been a deep investment in relationship. Jesus would have been seeking to re-capture the community that had been divided through his incarnation to earth – seeking the sort of personal connection he had left behind.
- William Barclay wrote: “Now Jesus knew well that he could not live without God; that if he was going to be forever giving out, he must be at least sometimes taking in; that if he was going to spend himself for others, he must ever and again summon spiritual reinforcements [resources] to his aid”.
- The human Jesus would understandably be engaging with Divine God in terms of what humans need in the face of earthly challenges: strength & assurance (especially with the obvious appearance of evil), peace (especially given any anxiety in his disciples), wisdom & direction (especially with the current broad interest in him and the wide geography involved).
- We can actually deduce, that following Jesus’ time of prayer, he actually headed towards a different neighbouring town than Simon Peter was suggesting (v.38). For whatever reason this was God’s leading that Jesus discerned through prayer. So prayer brought a (slight) change of thinking, more in line with God’s intentions.
- Praying for his disciples [co-workers, team] (at that time Peter, Andrew, James, John … perhaps more) – they surely would need lots of prayer, having been plucked from obscurity and simple daily lives, and given the biggest mission of all time.
- Praying for all those people he would soon encounter, perhaps especially those most affected by evil, injustice or disease.
- I’m sure there would have been many words of thanksgiving in anticipation for God’s (pre-emptive) activity.
- This, for Jesus, would have been a thorough ‘absorption’ in Kingdom mission; where ‘absorption’ means a disappearance through incorporation into something else, like water absorbing into the skin. This is about completely submitting to God’s reign.
** Our prayers too could sound something like this!!
We can’t escape our call to share the Gospel! Neither can we escape human interaction. Jesus needed to pray, so we need to pray (and probably a whole lot more). So, we can’t escape our need of prayer! In this prayer and reflection, we might gain the very insights and new perspectives, and that deeper knowledge of God (taken deep into our spirits), that is so vital to our lives and to God’s Kingdom.
Can we embrace this level of prayer … where we are absorbed into God’s Kingdom mission and the sharing of the good news!? Our elders and board recently entered into this space, with some pretty good outcomes I think (in terms of what we received from God). Could this be a year of prayer, and thereby, a year of remarkable discovery and effectiveness?
We must ensure, through prayer, that whatever we do … flows out of our relationship with God, not human desire.
We will be promoting some prayer themes, and giving opportunities to do some prayer-walking (or gathering or dispersing for prayer in public spaces).
In Jeremiah 33:3 we read, “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known”. The context of this verse is God bringing Jeremiah into the place of prayer, where he will hear things not before known (“hidden things”), things he can use to encourage the besieged people of Judah and Jerusalem – that ahead, despite the past, there will surely be times of healing, restoration and re-building. It is as we spend time in prayer, especially together, that we will come to know those “hidden things” … through which we will know how best to engage in God’s mission, and be the church God wants us to be.