Mark 1 35-39 b
Date: March 5, 2006
Speaker: Pastor Steven Thomas
Title: When Do You Pray?
Text: Mark 1:35-39
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. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”
38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
The words pray, prayed, or prayer occur 46 times in the four Gospels to describe Jesus’ practice or teaching on the subject. Prayer played a crucial role in his life and work. He insisted that his disciples follow his example.
Jesus prayed the kinds of things we are to pray—with one significant difference.
If Jesus thought it important, if Jesus needed to pray—how much more important should it be for you and me?
Today’s take-home truth: Jesus was a man of prayer. From him we learn to:
I. Start each day with prayer. 35a
The time reference that Mark uses places Jesus’ time of prayer during the fourth watch of the night—between 3 and 6am. The term “prayed” is a verb tense that indicates prolonged prayer—this is not a two minute job.
I find it interesting that Jesus began his public ministry the day before. It was tiring. It was draining. Yet, before the sun rose, we find him this Sunday morning communing with the Father in prayer.
Now, for those of you who don’t know, the sun rises gradually and morning provides a great time for prayer.
I am not suggesting that the Bible indicates that morning is the only time for prayer or the special time for prayer. Nor am I suggesting that it is the mark of true spirituality to pray in the morning. In fact the Bible records accounts of people praying three times a day, in the evening, before meals, after meals, in the afternoon, and at bedtime. It speaks of people praying often, every day, and always. There is no sacred prescription for the time of prayer.
However, I am suggesting to you that there is practical value to starting your day with prayer. We find that Jesus did this and the people of God often do this—both in the Bible and throughout history. Why?
To start your day with God establishes a proper perspective on the day.
Begin with a clean slate.
Focus our attention on him.
Be mindful of the mission.
Depend on him for strength.
Failure: States utter dependence on self.
Few of us are called to spend hours in prayer, but all of us must spend some time in prayer. And morning is the best time, the most practical time to pray.
Another reason finds its way into our text and is our second point:
II. Spend time in prayer without distraction. 35b
It is easy to picture Jesus rising early, quietly getting dressed, tip-toeing out of the house, slowing closing the gate behind him, hurrying silently through the streets of Capernaum and climbing a hill outside of town where he could lift his voice to an audience of one.
There is an obvious connection between praying early and praying in solitude. Solitude is necessary for our focus. You cannot do justice to communion with God when the TV is blaring, the kids are crying, the telephone is ringing, and your spouse is trying to talk to you.
We must get alone—get out if necessary. If you simply cannot rise before the distractions begin in your home, find a solitary place where you can go early in the day. Maybe it will be a spot where you pull your car off the road on the way to work to commune with God as the traffic passes by. Maybe it will be quiet room at work before the whistle blows. I know a housewife and mother who felt like solitude was impossible, but realized that she had perfect solitude in the shower. She now rises early every day and pours out her heart to God in the shower!
Solitude is the only way to engage in prayer with the intensity that it deserves. Adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication—all of these can, at times, be emotional endeavors. Consider the example of Jesus:
7 During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.
You will not pray like that in a public place. It requires solitude.
III. Find strength to face difficulty through prayer. 36
“look for, looking for” is anemic. Better, pursuing, even to hunt down. It has the idea of seeking with hostile intent. This is Mark’s commentary on what Peter was doing. Peter, no doubt, thought he had good, noble intentions. “I’ll find Jesus and get him on track—he needs a good manager.” No, his intentions were inappropriate.
Peter found Jesus and declared, “The people are looking for you”—and different word, but also suggesting inappropriate intentions. Used 10x in Mark, always with a negative connotation.
“Jesus, what are you doing? Man we are off to a great start; ministry potential is booming after the performance last night, but you need to come and work the crowd, you need to build on our successes.” Yes, crowds were thronging to him, but Jesus knew that this was not a mark of success.
Notoriety is sometimes a distraction from or stumbling block to true ministry. Sometimes distraction comes from without (“everyone”) and sometimes it comes from within (“Simon”).
Here, as elsewhere in Mark, enthusiasm is not to be confused with faith; indeed, it can oppose faith.
It is interesting to note that Mark only records three specific times when Jesus prayed. The other two times were occasions when the temptation presented itself for him to take the easy way out by riding the tide of popularity rather than traveling the path of suffering and death. I believe that is what is taking place in this text as well. He prayed. He prayed to resist the pressures of so-called success. He prayed to remain focused on the task he came to accomplish. He prayed for the mission to be accomplished God’s way, not the way of public opinion that seemed so seductive. He prayed because ministry is difficult.
Life is hard and we all have to make choices. How will I honor him? How will I serve him? How will I keep the main thing the main thing? How can I do this without first seeking him on my knees, pleading for wisdom and strength, and selfless devotion to God and his glory?
IV. Prepare for ministry with prayer. 37-38
Jesus arose from his morning of prayer determined to leave behind the crowds pressing him for the spectacular, pushing him toward fame. “I’ll go to the little villages and preach there,” Jesus said. And then he added this unassuming, but revealing statement, “That is why I have come.” Preaching was the priority. The message was all important.
Listen, the Gospel writers link Jesus’ prayer life with the fulfillment of his mission. His communion with his Father stoked the fires of his commitment to his mission. So should it be with us.
I just returned from preaching a Bible conference at Berea Baptist Church in Palm Harbor FL. It was a grueling trip. I just don’t know how those people tolerate the unrelenting sunshine and breezes off the Gulf of Mexico. I was asked to preach a series of message on the biblical mission to help pastor Billy Gotcher move his church toward more of a mission mindset. He ministers in an area where it is easy for the people of God to be more concerned with their golf game than with word of God; more focused on their tan than on sharing the gospel with the lost; for interested in fishing for grouper than fishing for men.
The reality is that such distractions are not the exclusive problems of ministry in FL. We might not have the weather that they have, but that does not stop us from finding our own diversions from the mission. We too need to be brought back to the reality that the message of Christ is why we are here. We need a daily reminder—a reminder we will receive if we spend time with our father each day.
Did you spend time in earnest prayer regarding the preaching that is taking place right now?
Have you prayed for the teachers that will teach the Bible in the hour that follows?
Did you pray that the Lord of the harvest would bring in the lost to hear the word?
Did you pray that the message would be clear, bold, and effective?
Do you pray for the outreach program on Tuesday evening?
For the participants?
For the contacts?
For the right words?
If so, wonderful.
If not, why not?
You might be thinking, “I am just too busy.” I will admit that the pace of life today leaves us all breathless and exhausted. But I still contend that the problem is not the amount of time that we have, but what we choose to do with that time. It seems that we find the time to do the things that we really want to do.
Ill. Children given a plate of vegetables. “I’m full.” Do you want some ice cream? “Yes.” Then I guess you are not too full to eat your vegetables.
We do exactly the same thing as adults with our time. “I’m too busy.” Do you want two tickets to tonight’s game? “I’ll make the time.” We make the time for the things that are really important to us. If we say, “I believe prayer is important,” but fail to pray, our actions reveal what we really believe.
Bingham Hunger troubling and convicting words:
In contrast to Jesus, most of us are too busy coping with existence to see prayer as vital or essential. But life could be more simple. An older car, a less trendy wardrobe, reupholstered rather than replaced furniture, a little less meat on the table—changes like this could reduce the need for so much income and perhaps provide more time for prayer. Part of the reason Jesus had time and energy to pray the way he did was the simplicity of his life. He owned next to nothing and invested his life in people, ideas, conversations and relationships. He viewed success quite differently than we usually do. And he viewed whatever he did as God’s work. These are thoughts worth pondering . . . even if they are also threatening. Who are you really in love with? Is it God? Your spouse? Your children? Friends? Success? Your image? Where is your treasure? There is you heart also. Prayer is basically a matter of priorities, isn’t it? (The God Who Hears, pp. 189-90)
Edwards, James R. The Gospel According to Mark. The Pillar New Testament commentary, Page 67. Grand Rapids, Mich: Eerdmans; 2002.