Close to God in Prayer
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Mark 1:35 (NIV)
Some people only pray when they are caught in a crisis. In the classic story of Huckleberry Finn, a story by Mark Twain, “Huck” and Jim (a runaway slave) are caught in a severe storm as they float down the Mississippi River on a raft. Jim pleads, “Huck, aren’t you going to pray?” Huckleberry Finn responds, “It ain’t bad enough yet”.
At what times in your life have you found yourself praying fervently?
Are we sometimes like Huckleberry Finn, deciding not to pray as it’s not bad enough? Do we think we might run out of prayers or ask God’s favour too much? Jesus prayed fervently. Not just in the last week before his death, but throughout his ministry using prayer to bring him strength and renew his spirit.
Read Mark 1:21–35
In this Bible reading we see what an incredible day Jesus experienced. He had taught in the synagogue, freed a man from an unclean spirit, cured Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever and in the cool of the evening had healed all the sick who had been brought to him. I’m sure Jesus would have been exhausted, but in verse 35 we read that he got up when it was still dark and went out to a quiet place to pray.
When do you like to spend time praying?
Is there a special place you like to pray where you feel closest to God?
The time mentioned was not only early in the morning, but also an early time in Jesus’ ministry. It would be nearly three more years before he would be crucified and again rise early that first Easter morning; heralding in the glorious resurrection. In the meantime, this working, healing, and praying ministry of Jesus would continue until he had fully healed all people from the sickness of sin. Jesus knew that, even when there wasn’t a crisis, he needed to remain close to his heavenly Father in prayer. In prayer he renewed himself, replenished his strength, and kept his ministry in perspective.
When you have had a busy day and are exhausted from all your activities, what do you do? Feet up and sigh? [Use this time to thank God for the ministry opportunities and pray for those you were in contact with – take a few moments for silent prayer.]
If we are honest with ourselves, the feet up and sighing that we got through it all is probably what we would all do. But what if we did sit and pray for all those we met and encountered? If we thanked Jesus that we completed the tasks set before us. What a witness and ministry we could be and do for our community.
What impact do you think that this sort of praying ministry could produce?
King David wrote many of the Psalms. I was looking through them and found that they are all prayers, times when King David spoke directly to his heavenly Father. Look through them yourself and see that he praises God, he calls for God’s help, he asks for God to be merciful to him, and he celebrates God’s goodness. There are many instances when he also rose early in the morning in prayer: In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. Psalm 5:3 (NIV)
In Isaiah 33:2 (NIV): O Lord, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress.
Following Jesus and King David’s example, maybe you also could begin each day with prayer and praise asking for God’s help in situations and then wait and see how the day unfolds. Each morning is a new beginning, a new gift of God’s love and faithfulness for the day ahead.
Look at Psalm 67 – what sort of prayer is this?
Have each person choose a psalm and share with the group the type of prayer it is.
Allow people to share their favourite psalm and explain why it touches them.
There are so many examples of prayers in the Bible – it is full of people talking to and with God. Our greatest example is from the Son of God himself. Jesus is more than our example in prayer – he is our enabler. Because he redeemed us through his death on the cross, he removed every obstacle, clearing the way for us to come confidently into the presence of God in prayer. We can boldly ask God as dear children ask their human parents. God is a loving Father, and we can come close to him at any time, not only in times of trouble but in times when all is well. Prayer is an intimate relationship we have with God!
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you that I can come to you at all times in prayer, knowing that you will always help, renew and strengthen me for whatever lies ahead. Give me courage to call on you in all circumstances. Amen.
Say together Luther’s Morning Prayer:
I thank you heavenly father, through your dear Son Jesus Christ, that you have protected me through the night from all harm and danger. I ask you to keep me this day too, from all sin and evil, so that in all my thoughts, words, and deeds I may please you. In your hands I place my body and soul and all that is mine. Let your holy angel be with me, so that the evil one may have no power over me. Amen.