Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Priority of Prayer

Early in Jesus' ministry, he is experiencing great success. His fame is spreading through Galilee as he casts out demons and heals many sick people. After one particularly busy day of healing, Mark's Gospel tells us this:
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. And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, "Everyone is looking for you." And he said to them, "Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out." Mark 1 :35-38 (ESV)
Three observations from this account of Jesus' ministry.
  • Jesus prioritized prayer as the way to effectively minister to people. He didn't use busyness or success with people as an excuse for neglecting prayer and solitude with God the Father. He realized that in order to meet people's needs he needed time alone with God. If we neglect prayer for the sake of ministering to people a breakdown will eventually come. We will get burnt out, or become proud of our "successes," or lack the strength to continue on, or lack the true power of transformation that God provides. Somewhere a breakdown will happen when we neglect prayer and solitude.
  • Jesus' prayer was done in solitude, away from distractions. Jesus needed to focus, and a few moments alone with people harboring for his attention wasn't going to cut it. This is why Jesus woke up very early in the morning, while it was still dark. He knew everyone else would be asleep and he could be alone.
  • Jesus' time in solitude and prayer with the Father enabled him to stay focused on his calling: to preach the good news of salvation. While everyone was looking for him, and while he had experienced amazing acceptance and success, he left that comfort because his calling was to preach the Gospel. Through prayer to his Father, Jesus was able to stay focused on his calling instead of being enamored by success. They are not the same thing. And only focused time with the Father will help us to know the difference.