Mark 1:35 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.
This little event has gigantic repercussions for our prayer life. Here’s our starting point, because it’s Mark’s starting point, Jesus is the Christ, the son of God. He’s God. And then he goes out to pray. Jesus is totally redefining our thoughts about God, first he was tempted, then he doesn’t insist people treat him the way he deserves, now he prays. Why in the world would God need to pray? If he’s God, doesn’t he know what his father is thinking…in an instant? If he’s God why can’t he just teleport back to heaven, converse with God, then beam back down.
And why was Jesus praying? Why do we pray? We usually pray to ask God for something. But since Jesus was God why would he need to ask for anything? We usually pray to God when we are very sorry for our sins. But since Jesus was God, he didn’t sin so he couldn’t have been asking for forgiveness. There’s an old saying that goes, “Prayer doesn’t change God’s mind, it changes ours.” Well, what about Jesus? First of all, He is God so why would he even try to change God’s mind if it was his own? Second of all, He is God so why would he need his mind changed?
When we pray, our mind wanders. We fall asleep. We get bored. We fall back on memorized prayers. We merely think and meditate rather than speak to God. We pray because we should rather than because we delight in it.
But Jesus rose up early in the morning to pray to God. This tells me I either misunderstand Jesus, or prayer, or God, or all three.
What this tells us about Jesus: It tells us that even Jesus was dependent on God. It tells us that there’s communication, community, relationship in the Godhead. It tells us that Jesus let go of so much power and made himself subject to what we must do so that he could show us how to communicate with God.
What this tells us about prayer: It’s possible to communicate with God through prayer. It’s worthwhile to communicate with God through prayer.
What this tells us about God: God hears prayer. God communes with people through prayer. God directs through prayer.
The other day, I was talking to someone who was hurting. I didn’t know what to say to help so I prayed silently to God, “Lord show me what to say.” God didn’t give me anything to say. So I was quiet. Then I thought of something to say, but God didn’t give me the way I should phrase it. So I was quiet. Then when I’d finally thought of something to say and the way to phrase it, it wasn’t the right time to say it anymore. All this time I was listening and my hurting friend was talking. And then I realized that God had showed me exactly what to say…nothing. My friend needed someone to listen. My friend didn’t need someone to solve his problems for him. My friend didn’t need someone to tell him what to do. He just needed someone to care enough to listen. Then I started to realize how the silence of God (which bugs me so much) is actually a great, merciful kindness.
Don’t interpret the silence of God as apathy. He hasn’t put down the phone to go do more important things. He cares. Don’t interpret the silence of God as a dead line. Prayer reaches God. Interpret the silence of God as mercy. He wants to listen to you.
So then what is prayer?
The Westminster confession is helpful: “Prayer is offering our desires to God in the name of Christ for things that agree with His will, confessing our sins, and thankfully recognizing His mercies.”
Prayer is God giving us a chance to talk. He wants us to mention our problems and His name in the same conversation, in the same sentence, in the same breath. It puts our problems into perspective. He wants us to mention our desires and His name in the same conversation, in the same sentence, in the same breath. It puts our desires into perspective.