Prepare Our Hearts – August 19

A Devotional from Central Presbyterian Church.Find another day here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020
Mark 1:35-39

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37 and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” 38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Through our medical mission work in the Dominican Republic, for one week out of the year, I have been blessed to work alongside of some incredibly smart and talented mission volunteers. Whether they are engineers -turned-doctors or pharmacists-turned-lawyers, one of the dangerous things about spending so much time around very successful and humble people is that they make everything look so easy that often we forget all the work they had to do in order to get where they are. While some people love to constantly let you know how much they know — I am guilty of this more than I care to admit — our medical clinic staff from Central has always done an incredible job of putting egos aside and spending more time listening to the opinions of others, be they patients or interpreters or even overzealous youth pastors, before making any diagnosis or providing treatment. Even though so much of the job revolves around simply prescribing vitamins and anti-parasite medication and reassuring anxious patients and/or their parents that everything is going to be okay, there is so much more to it. What we can’t see out in the clinic is the thousands of hours of schooling and practice that allows a doctor to know the difference between a minor problem and a major one, or a pharmacist to know which medications are safe to give together and which ones might cause unwanted adverse side effects. Too often I see the “public” part of other professionals and naively believe “I could do that.”

So early in the morning following the healing of the huddled masses at Simon and Andrew’s front door, Jesus got up while it was still dark and set out to find a quiet place to pray. The disciples surely found sleep difficult that evening, unable to completely wrap their minds around all that they had witnessed and looking ahead with excitement and anticipation of another day with their mysterious rabbi. Anxious to join Jesus in the important work of ministry, when the disciples went to get Him up and moving, He was already gone. Perplexed, they quickly formed a search team and finally found Him praying alone. Exasperated, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.” We might translate this as, “Jesus, why are out here? The people here need you, don’t neglect the important work of ministry by wasting your time in the woods.”

As news about the powerful words and works of Jesus continued to spread throughout the land, it became more and more difficult for Jesus to spend time by Himself, but no matter the demands upon Him, or more accurately, because of those demands, Jesus never failed to spend time with His Father in prayer. From birth Jesus had a divine nature, but He was still constrained by the limitations of His human body. Jesus shared the same physical needs as everyone else—food, water, sleep, etc.—but His greatest urgency was always to satisfy His spiritual hunger. Just a few verses earlier in Mark 1, just prior to the start of His public ministry, Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness praying and fasting. Although no one went with Him, Jesus was never alone when He was spending time with His Heavenly Father. The time in the wilderness weakened Jesus’ body but strengthened His spirit and served as a catalyst for His mission. Even before He began to teach and preach and minister to the lost sheep of Israel, Jesus knew the turbulent road ahead would end with ultimate rejection and suffering on the hill at Golgotha. The public life of Jesus was fueled by His private time in prayer, and Jesus wanted the disciples to understand that maintaining His relationship with the Father was actually His first priority.

Not only did Jesus pray often, but the manner in which He did so was striking and unique. The pharisees and religious leaders of the day loved to stand up in front of big crowds and offer lengthy prayers full of big words, impressing everyone within earshot with their sophisticated theological vocabulary. Jesus, by contrast, referred to God simply as His Father, and encouraged the disciples to use the same familiar language when they prayed. He lauded those who offered simple prayers from the heart and sought the will of God above their own.

The German reformer Martin Luther was once asked how, with so much important work filling his schedule like preaching and teaching and translating the Bible, he ever found time to pray. His response is still stunning: “I have so much to do that I must first spend 3 hours in prayer.” Luther understood, just like Jesus, that the meeting the “important work” of ministry was only possible by spending time with God.

So often we fail to make our time with the Lord the first priority of our lives and instead see it as a chore to be taken care of if we have the time. But if Jesus, the incarnate Word of God, needed to spend time alone with the Father, how much more do I need to do so? When we are struggling to keep up with the demands placed upon us, if we are overcome with the feeling that we can never keep up, it is then that we must evaluate if we are taking care of the truly important things. A Christian too busy to pray is like a driver too rushed to visit the gas station; although the car can still run on fumes, sooner or later its going to break down. We must follow the example of Jesus and never neglect the truly important work.

Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, we thank You for the example that You set for us. Although You are God, You remained committed to the will of the Father and modeled what a healthy relationship with Him should look like for us. We confess that far too often we get caught up in our own lives and schedules and to quickly abandon our time with You. Show us our need for You and for Your Word and do not allow us to succeed on our own power and efforts. Through the power of the Spirit we humbly ask this in the name of the perfect Son of the Father. Amen.