“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)
The disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray after observing him at prayer. So, what was Jesus’ habit in prayer? (If you’re not an early morning person, don’t stop reading here!)
The verse from Mark’s Gospel above represents a paradigm for Jesus’ praying. Putting aside the time of day (which can be a stumbling block for some), this verse shows Jesus prioritizing prayer. Prayer is important enough to justify making time and finding a place conducive to prayer. Perhaps the time of day isn’t as important here as the prioritization of time to pray. The house was filled with people. Good for community, not so good for solitude necessary to commune with God.
Jesus taught the disciples a prayer–a set of words–that also contained a whole theology or understanding about what prayer is. It was a pattern or model for prayer too, in addition to being a specific prayer that they could pray.
But the example of praying that drew them to Jesus’ life of prayer included a habit of making time and space for prayer.
Training: Starting can be the hardest part. I’m not very good at just beginning to pray on my own. I have had much success beginning with the same prayer in the morning, one that comes from the scriptures and is used in the Book of Common Prayer. It’s an adaptation of Psalm 51, plus the doxology. I begin my daily prayer in the morning with these words. In this way, I don’t have to think of how to begin–the beginning is “pre-programmed” so to speak. This brings great freedom. It helps me begin by taking the hesitation about what to say first out of the equation.
Here’s how I begin:
Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (Psalm 51:15, 10-12)
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever, Amen.
Praying, “Open my lips, Lord” invites God to help me begin again in prayer. The rest gives me words with which to begin–to warm up, if you will. These words, followed by the words of the Lord’s Prayer, authentically prayed, are a wonderful start. Try praying just that way this week. If you have prayers to add, offer them in between these words from Psalm 51 at the beginning and the Lord’s Prayer at the end. Bookend your prayers with God’s Word.
Prayer: God, help me prioritize time and space for prayer. Help me begin simply today with words you’ve already given me. Amen.