Two lessons from Jesus on prayer
As disciples of Jesus, we want to learn from what he did, especially when it comes to prayer. Today I offer a couple of quick observations about Mark 1:35. It's one of the more famous verses in Mark's Gospel, because it describes Jesus stealing away in the pre-dawn hours to go pray. The verse says,
"And having risen early in the morning while it was still dark, Jesus went out and went away to a deserted place, and there he prayed." (My translation.)
Some background... In Capernaum (or any of the other towns along the Sea of Galilee), it would have been impossible for Jesus to find any place to be alone. He was instantly famous because he had healed so many people the day before. In addition, people lived in very close proximity to one another, and families shared small spaces. Hence the need to go outside the town to find a place to be alone. Also, laborers started getting up at sunrise to start their work days. Hence the need to get up while it was still dark.
Lesson 1: Make the sacrifice to be with God... Was Jesus tired? Did he deserve to sleep in? I would say yes. The day before was filled with teaching in the synagogue, casting out a demon while at the synagogue, healing Simon's mother-in-law, and then healing dozens of people who crowded around her house when word got out that he had power to heal. Jesus was no doubt tired, but he made the sacrifice to go and pray anyway. This is what someone does when they realize that the condition of their soul and relationship to God is more important than even sleep.
Lesson 2: Go out and go away... I'm no Greek scholar, but I find the wording interesting. It is two verbs that are virtually redundant, being used in succession. In English, it would read, "he went out and went away..." To me, the redundancy underscores the necessity of leaving the crowdedness of our lives in order to spend time with the Father. We have to find and/or create space away from everything and everyone else. Could Jesus have slept in and joined in morning prayers with everyone else? Yes, but he got up before anyone else so he could "go out and go away" to be alone with his Father.
Finally... Where else in the story of Jesus do we hear about him rising in the early morning hours? That's right, Easter!