It doesn’t take much work to search for a slew of excellent quotations on the value and importance of prayer for one’s life. Prayer is a way that we approach God. It’s a way that we bear our hearts to God and ask him to make a difference in our lives, especially regarding the things we need or want. Anyone with any sort of spiritual life is going to admit how important prayer is. There is a problem here though. We often resort to prayer as a last-ditch effort: “All we can do now is pray.” Or we only find time to pray when things aren’t going so well. Jesus models a life of prayer that is much different from that which most of us are familiar with. He doesn’t just do things, he prays. Prayer is “doing something”. In Jesus’ life, we see prayer is the way that he discerns what the Father wants for him, not just what he wants from the Father.
Prayer doesn’t only bring blessing, Jesus prayed in the Garden before he was betrayed and crucified, so although blessing is a component of prayer, there is more to it than this. In the life of Jesus, we see he takes time to pray and it appears that he does this in order to make sure he is properly following the will of the Father. Take the circumstances of this story in Mark 1:35-39.
Jesus had been healing and casting out demons at Simon’s house in Capernaum, but after he prays, he takes his apparently successful ministry elsewhere. The whole city was coming to him, why would he leave? He was successful, why would he change? His ministry exploded overnight, that is a wave you ride, you don’t bail out on it and paddle for another one. But Jesus prays. Because he does this, his ego doesn’t get the best of him. He understands the Father’s plan is not for him to be popular or to have a vibrant ministry. verse 37 says that everyone is looking for Jesus, and what does Jesus do? He leaves. His disciples had big plans for his ministry. They went to get him so he could come back in town and become even more popular. But his disciples’ plan and his Father’s plan were obviously different, and, in the course of praying, Jesus determines to follow his Father.
In verse 38 he says, let’s go to another place so I can preach there. Remember what he is preaching. His message is the Good News of God. His message is about the expected time being fulfilled and God’s Kingly authority coming so close it can be experienced. Jesus says, “I’ve done enough here for the time being, let’s go somewhere else and do it again.” In verse 38, Jesus says that preaching this Good News from God is, “why I came out.” This is why he would begin such a radical and historic ministry after 30 years of a seemingly uneventful and normal life. This is why he came out of Capernaum after doing amazing things and having the whole city come to see him. And this is why, although existing in perfect Trinitarian harmony in heaven, he would step out of heaven, humble himself and take on human flesh, and enter into humanity. He does this to bring God’s Good News. The time has come and the Divine King has come, this is Good News!
Jesus leaves Capernaum, and verse 38 says he travelled all over Galilee healing and casting out demons. Jesus discerned this way of ministry through prayer. His success didn’t go to his head because he was in perfect communion with the Father. He understood his purpose and his path. In prayer, Jesus gathered the wisdom and the strength to follow the will of God. We often pray for what we want, which does have a place in prayer, we should pray this way. But Jesus shows us, that prayer is also for cultivating what God wants in us. It’s a conversation, it’s a two-way street. In prayer we discern God’s will for us, and we gather strength to obey God’s will. Praying isn’t only so God will give us stuff, praying makes us like Jesus. Prayer is the place where our spiritual lives are molded and made into what God is forming us to be. It’s so much more important that we know God than that we accomplish something for God. This is proven in Jesus’ life and ministry. It doesn’t appear that he was concerned about success or doing something great for God, his focus, his life, his pattern, was to know God and obey him. His life was consumed with one thing, Loving his Father perfectly. When he does this, look what happens, that love is translated into a ministry that affects people in a deep and real way all around Jesus’ life. The whole city was at the door. The time has come for our church to grow in our love for our Father before we worry about doing something big and great. That love for the Father is expressed in prayer, in obedience, and in loving one another. If churches can get this right, if our church can get this right, then the whole city will be at our door because they will want to see Jesus.
After an amazing day of ministry in Capernaum, Jesus takes time to pray. When his disciples come to get him, he says, it’s time to move along. There is a difference between the program his disciples had planned and the program that Jesus is going to follow. Let’s make sure we know whose plan we are following.