Last night I received an email from the Islamic Association of Raleigh’s chairman inviting me to their annual open house to learn about Islam and observe their prayer, which reminded me that a faithful Muslim prays five times every day. A habit they developed whether they feel like praying or not. Is there any habit you have developed that you do religiously every day? Is prayer a part of that habit?
In this week’s church reading plan, Mark records, “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he [Jesus] departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” Mark 1:35. It may not sound like a big deal that Jesus prayed, but when we read from verse 21, Mark describes what Jesus did the day before. The first task, Jesus taught with authority (v. 22). The second, Jesus casts out demons (v. 25). The third, starting from sundown, He healed many sick (v. 34). We know that Jesus doesn’t perform a miracle without a cost to Him (Mark 4:30). After all this, Mark doesn’t say, Jesus took the next day off. But, He rose early in the morning to pray.
If that ever happens to us, we serve or even work all day until late at night. It is easy to feel like we did a lot for the Lord, and the last thing we are worried about the following day is to pray. We like busyness, and we like people needing us and giving us attention. But our Lord prays early in the morning because He knows that there is no substitute for our time with the Father.
We know that prayer offers unique strength to our walk with the Lord. Prayer gave Jesus direction and purpose and helped Him prioritize His yes and no. He said no to something good and prioritized His mission even when everyone was looking for Him (v. 37-38). Though we could articulate the importance of prayer yet, many of us are dissatisfied with our prayer life if we are honest. And one of the common excuses I noticed in my life and often heard from others is, “I am busy,” or taking Paul’s expression of “prayer without ceasing” too far by multitasking our prayer time with other essential things, like driving, working out, cooking, etc.”
It is not about waking up early in the morning. The point is about sacrificial and undistracted prayer. Jesus sacrificed His sleep and went into a lonely place to pray. If anyone could be busy or be in constant commune with God, it was Jesus. Yet He took time off from His schedule to pray. The busyness will not disappear, but we will need to learn to control our time. We just don’t drift into disciplined prayer unless we plan to pray. If you struggle with your prayer time, start slowly, but maintain the discipline of prayer. Ask God’s help, practice, and grow upon it. Is there anything in your life that you could set aside (sacrifice) so you could commit to the discipline of prayer? What we do echos our highest priorities.