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! 


  1. I really liked this post. But I can we really KNOW that Jesus did all those things in the same day?

    I can imagine how hard it was to find an alone place.

  2. Thanks, Tina! It's a good question. Actually, there are two ways you might be asking the question. One way would be to wonder how Mark tells the story. I think it's the simplest reading of Mark that he is portraying all these things happening in a 24-hour period. He says that they went to Capernaum, and on the Sabbath Jesus went to the synagogue. There he delivered the man from the evil spirit.

    Then 1:29 says, "as soon as they left the synagogue" they went to the home of Simon and Andrew. There he healed Simon's mother-in-law.

    "That evening after sunset" all sorts of people came, and Jesus healed them.

    "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark" is when Jesus got up to pray.

    So the picture I understand Mark to be painting is of a very full day and evening, followed by rising before dawn the next morning.

    Now there is another way you could be asking your question: "How do we know things really happened exactly as Mark says they did?" This is a more complicated question. And the answer is, we can't know that. The four Gospels are each distinct. They seem to be more like portraits painted by four artists than four photographs. In a portrait, an individual brush stroke might "go outside the lines", so to speak, and might contain a color slightly different from how things look in a photograph. But when the artist is finished, you stand back and look, and if it's a good portrait, you say, "That really catches the essence of the person." That's how the Gospels are. The four authors portray things differently sometimes, but each of them catches the essence of who Jesus is.

    As for this story, Luke tells it the same way in chapter 4. It's a little different in Matthew. Since I'm reading through Mark, I'm just soaking up his rendering of the story and the chain of events that made up Jesus' early ministry. I'm listening to hear Mark's voice, and I'm enjoying that a lot.

    I hope I answered your question!

  3. Hey, I just came across this while searching for pictures, and I find this really interesting that Jesus (peace be upon him) woke up every morning before dawn to pray. It's exactly what the Muslims do today. I wonder if today's Christians do this, and how many of them, too? I think that just goes to show that these two religions are not too far apart.


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