In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” Mark 1:35-37
When the people learned that Jesus had miraculous power the response was overwhelming. Everyone wanted an appointment, everybody wanted to see him. That can produce anxiety in the best of humans. Like my grandfather used to say, “Nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.”
Years ago, a man under as much pressure in his professional and private life as I have ever known asked me to go with him into the wilderness to pray. When we found the right place he was looking for, he asked me to stay at the foot of the mountain and pray for him while he climbed the mountain to talk with God. He didn’t tell me what to pray or even what all this was about.
Two hours later he came down the mountain. I asked him how it went. His eyes were red and swollen. He said, “I can’t tell you about the conversation, Joe. But I heard from God.”
Jesus response to a time of extreme business, tremendous opportunity, and incredible popularity is very different than most of us. When we get this busy the first thing that is cut is our prayer life and solitude. But the busier Jesus gets, the more he retreats to solitude and prayer. Jesus didn’t move to a quiet enclave or patio to pray. He went away from where people were into the wild or “the waste” to pray.
If you do a study of the prayers of Jesus, you find a very similar dynamic. He begins almost all of His prayers with “Father” or more accurately “Abba.” Today we might say “Dad” or “Papa.” What does this mean? The essence of prayer is not “give us this day our daily stuff.” It is not “forgive us our sins.”
What comes first? Orientation and alignment. Our Father, which art in heaven…
The essence of prayer is searing the senses of the mind and heart with the white-hot fact that in Jesus, the cosmic God of the universe has become your Father.
All other prayers are based on this dynamic.
I’m not sure who said it but the statement is poignantly true, “A parent is only as happy as their unhappiest child.” Unavoidably as a parent there is such an entanglement of emotion and soul-connection that when your child is happy you are happy and if they have no joy, you have no joy.
If that is true of me and you as broken and sinful parents, how much more does God’s heart ache when our heart aches? God is infinitely more committed to us as His children than we are to ours.
And it is that orientation and connection that motivates Jesus to rise early and journey to a solitary place to be with His Father.
Now Jesus is back for more of that infinite love. As a human being he needed it. But here is what Jesus is after: the power of Jesus’ life is the joy of His sonship.
In prayer, he goes back to it every day, and He sears His heart with it. And that’s what gives Him the joy and energy to handle the “busyness” and pressure of this ministry.
See, prayer is foundational and the purpose of prayer is not to get things from God, but simply to get God. And to the degree you know the unconditional Fatherly love of God you do not need human affirmation, affection, power or control. They don’t work on you. You are secure.
Because you still have that Voice ringing in your ears, “You are my beloved.”