“And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.
36 And Simon and they that were with him followed after him.
37 And when they had found him, they said unto him, All men seek for thee.
38 And he said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth.
39 And he preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils. Unable to sleep, the solitary figure rose from His bed, quietly dressed, and slipped out of the house.
Though weary from the labors of the day before, there was a compelling need to pray. Jesus had to talk to the Father. Of all the images that the Bible presents of Christ, none is more practical as that of His having a passion for prayer. But what is prayer?”
Unfortunately, some people believe that prayer is silly and non-existent. They dismiss prayer as having no value, for no one is listening. After all, the Universe, and all that is in the world is just the product of a cosmic accident. Time + Space + Chance equal everything.
There is no God.
There is no Creator.
There is only a vast universe which is cold and dark.
Others disagree with the atheist or agnostic. They believe there is a Supreme Being but they do not pray, because He is not in their thoughts. There is so much to see and do on earth, beginning with childhood.
When a person is very young, life is a vast playground. Then comes school with classes and homework, sports and social events, friends and family. The years pass swiftly. Following graduation there is a career choice to make, or perhaps college.
Time speeds up.
The momentum accelerates. It seems that life is slipping away. Marriage and children are longed for. A job beckons. A future awaits. Time takes wings and virtually flies. Before it is realized, the children are grown, the vacations are past, and most of life has been lived. Hardly any thought has been given to the One who makes all things possible. The heart has never asked some of life’s most basic questions:
“Where did the health come from, to live so long?”
“Where did the children we love so much, originate?”
“Who created this thing we call “love”?
It is possible to have a pleasured filled life without God.
While some do not pray because they have no faith, and others do not pray because of the pleasures to be found in life, there are those who do pray, because they have gone to God and discovered—He lives. Obeying the words of Psalm 46:10 the soul has finally stood still. And in the stillness words have been whispered, “God, are you there?” “Lord, can you help me?” “Father, my life is out of control!” “Please! Save me from the power and pollution of sin!”
There is a Jewish proverb which says, “Dear God, help me get up; I can fall down by myself.” And the One who sits upon the circle of the earth; the One who inhabits eternity; the One who places His feet upon the clouds, and rides the wind as His chariot comes close and says, “I will help you. I will save you. Now, what else do you want?”
If a person is wise at this moment in life, they will pray with Richard of Chichester (1189-1259) and say,
“Day by day, dear Lord,
Of thee three things I pray;
To see thee more clearly,
Love thee more dearly,
Follow thee more nearly,
Day by day.”
Certainly, these sentiments Jesus addressed to the Father, for He was a man of prayer.
The prayer life of Christ encourages us to realize a great truth, which is prayer’s necessity.
Dr. William Barclay notes that if Jesus could not live a life without prayer, neither can we. Therefore, from the narrative consider three principles of prayer.
First, prayer is to be a matter of priority. The Bible says that “in the morning, rising up a great while before dawn,” Jesus went out. While not everyone can rise up early in the morning, the principle of prayer can be appreciated. And the principle is that prayer must be a priority. Time must be set aside and protected. There is to be a regular place to come together with God so that the soul can sing:
“Sweet hour of prayer!
Sweet hour of prayer!
That calls me from a world of care.
And bids me at my father’s throne
Make all my wants and wishes known;
In seasons of distress and grief,
My soul has often found relief
And oft escape the tempter’s snare,
By return, sweet hour of prayer.”
Those who make prayer a priority realize that there are many obstacles to overcome.
As a culture, Americans are energetic. “Any prolonged period of meditation, Bible reading, and prayer can seem like an eternity. Man thinks he loses something-time- when he does not do things quickly. Yet he does not know what to do with the time he gains-except kill it” Erich Fromm (1900-1980). Time spent with God will never be wasted.
The phone rings. The TV is programmed to turn itself on. A friend drops by for a visit. There are so many distractions. A feeling of inadequacy. “What do I say?” “How do I pray?” No one should feel they are alone in this. Even the disciples came to Him one day and asked to be taught to pray.
Second, not only was Jesus committed to prayer, He saw the necessity of personal prayer. There is to be personal prayer in order to be totally honest to God. When the heart is honest with the Lord the following can occur.
Confession of specific sin.
The Catholic Church still teaches that people must tell their sins to a priest. Sometimes, the burden of wrong choices becomes too heavy to carry, and there is the need to talk to someone in confidence. However, there is this great truth, and that is there is One Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.
Openness of emotions.
Many years ago a young man sent an E-mail. He was angry with God, if the truth were told. His cousin had died in a tragic accident. He was only 18 years old. What kind of God allows young people in the prime of life to die? Why did the Lord take the only friend he had in the world away?
In the hour he expressed his anger with God and the Lord was gracious enough to listen.
As fears and frustrations can be shared in private, so can tender moments of intimacy be expressed.
God does like to hear that He is loved and appreciated. So, do you, and so do I. The Bible commands us to love God with all of our heart and strength and mind. And many do.
Nearly 200 years ago there were two Scottish brothers named John and David Livingstone. John had set his mind on making money and becoming wealthy, and he did. But under his name in an old edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica” John Livingston is listed simply as, “the brother of David Livingstone.”
And who was David Livingstone? While John had dedicated himself to making money, David had knelt and prayed. Surrendering himself to Christ, he resolved, “I will place no value on anything I have or possess unless it is in relationship to the Kingdom of God.” The inscription over his burial place in Westminster Abbey reads,
“For thirty years his life was spent in an unwearied effort to evangelize.” On his 59th birthday David Livingstone wrote, “My Jesus, my King, my Life, my All; I again dedicate my whole self to Thee.” (Billy Graham in Breakfast with Billy Graham. Christianity Today, Vol. 41, no. 6.)
As Jesus established prayer as a priority, and engaged in private devotions, it is important to stress that He gave Himself to the spiritual activity.
I read of a well-meaning Christian who decided to take seriously the study of the Bible and prayer. He set aside a room in the house, and purchased all that would be needed: books, commentaries, a computer, paper, pencils etc. Then, he set up a coffee pot. Everything was just right. Finally, he sat down to study and pray – and fell asleep. The King’s business requires haste.
Jesus did not just make preparation for prayer by rising early in the morning, and going to a secluded place. He prayed. He opened His heart and He spoke to God.
Perhaps it is at this point that individuals become concerned, and ask again, “Pastor, how does one pray? Are there magical words to be used?” The answer, of course, is “No. There are no magical words to be used.” Let me suggest something very simple and very practical. Get a piece of paper and list the following categories.
Petitions for others.
People who are sick
People who need to be saved
People who are hurting
People who need a job or financial resources
People who have something wonderful happen, such as the birth of a baby. Be sure to, “Weep
with those who are weeping, and rejoice with those who are rejoicing.”
When you have prayed, and gone through this list, you will find, when you look at your watch, that at least 4 ½ minutes will have passed…and that is a good start, so do not get discouraged.
While Jesus was praying, the Bible says that His disciples were searching for Him. Simon was leading the way. What Simon and the others were really doing was not just searching for Jesus. That word is much too mild. They were frantically trying to track Jesus down in His retreat. They had heard Jesus preached. They had seen His power. They had felt His touch, and they did not want the Lord to be lost. The point is powerful. When we come to know the Lord, we will have the same reaction.
When we hear Jesus speak afresh to our hearts, through His word, when we have seen His power to heal, when we have felt His touch, we will not want to let Him go. We will do anything and everything to find Him.
When Peter and the others found Jesus they said, “Lord, all men seek for thee.” And it was true. Men did seek for Christ, but remember, some sought Jesus for the wrong reasons.
The people of Capernaum sought Christ, but only to know something of His power without any real regard for Him as a person.
Because the Lord knew the hearts of the citizens of the city, the Bible says that He replied, “Peter, Andrew, James and John, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth.”
With these words, Jesus moved from the place of personal prayer to public spiritual service. That too is important, for it teaches the church that we are not to be in splendid isolation forever.
Long ago the church was wrong when it put men in monasteries, and women in convents, and told them not to marry, or have children.
The church was wrong when the saints withdrew from society. To leave society was never the will of Christ, nor was it His own personal example. What the Lord did show the church, is that prayer is the path to greater spiritual service. There is a great deal of truth to the words of the poet who said that,
“Christ has no hands but our hands
To do his work today;
He has no feet but our feet
To lead men in his way;
He has no tongues but our tongues
To tell men how he died;
He has no help but our help
To bring them to his side.”
Annie Johnson Flint
I exhort you to have a passion for prayer in order to enjoy a greater sphere of spiritual service, and in order to follow the example of the Savior and the early saints.