Prepare to listen. Be still and silent in preparation to hear the Gospel. When ready, pray: I will meditate on your precepts, and fix my eyes on your ways. (Psalm 119:15)
Read Mark 1:35-39
35In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37When they found him, they said to him, ‘Everyone is searching for you.’ 38He answered, ‘Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.’ 39And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
In these few verses we learn that Jesus engaged in three important practices. The first is prayer. Notice the detail of the first verse describing where and when he prayed—morning, still dark, he got up and went out, a deserted place. End of detail. Mark concludes with the simple words, ‘he prayed.’ Nothing is told about how Jesus prayed or what words, if any, he used. This is an important omission highlighting the relational nature of prayer. In its broadest understanding prayer is a relationship with the Living God and therefore, different for every person. For some, words are important, both the words they speak and the ones they hear from God. For others, silence is more meaningful. The point is to find a ‘deserted place,’ a quiet hour (for Jesus that was early morning; it may not be the best for you) where you can be alone, with few distractions. In the solitude and silence God meets the pray-er and the relationship deepens.
The second practice is ‘proclaiming the message.’ It is mentioned twice in these few verses. Jesus responded to the disciples, who wanted him to return to Capernaum and continue performing miracles on the sick, saying that he came to ‘proclaim the message.’ We know the message he proclaimed was ‘the good news of the kingdom of God’ (1:15). It would have been far easier to go back into the town to satisfy and amaze a crowd wanting miracles, but Jesus wouldn’t do it. The message was more important than the miracles. Indeed, the miracles proclaim the message. If we but pay careful attention, we’ll get it.
The third practice is only mentioned briefly in the last words: ‘and casting out demons.’ The frequency with which the demonic is mentioned in Mark’s Gospel suggests that the devil continued his attack on Jesus begun the wilderness temptation. Jesus was in constant conflict, not merely with earthly powers and people, but with all the spiritual forces of evil. Casting out demons is also about confronting evil in the world in Jesus’ name, a discipline we can exercise today.
These three practices are identical to the three tasks that Jesus gave to the ones he called to be apostles (3:14-15). In varying ways, they are still the tasks that we, who call ourselves followers of Jesus, are called to practice today.
In what ways could you practice these three disciplines—prayerful solitude with Jesus, proclaiming his message and confronting evil—in your world today?
Respond to Jesus in prayer
Lord, you practiced three tasks that aren’t easy. I know that I too must spend time in prayer, proclaim your message and confront evil, but I find all kinds of excuses to avoid one or all of them. Help me today to start trying, once again. Amen.
Go and live obediently in the world, praying, proclaiming the good news and confronting evil.