Mark 1:35

I. ITS IMMEDIATE OCCASION.

1. To be found in connection with his work. It was incessant. Fresh claims upon his attention and compassion were continually being made. Only the day before "all the city" had been "gathered together at the door." The exercise of his healing power was a drain upon his emotional and spiritual nature, and the fatigue of the work, which lasted from morning to night, must have been a severe tax upon the delicate organization of the Saviour. He needed rest.

2. To be found in the excitement attaching to it. He was at the beginning of his ministry, and it was full of novelty and uncertainty. As the supernatural power of Christ displayed itself, the people began to broach ideas of a temporal sovereignty. A profound impression was produced upon the public mind, and vast crowds attended him wherever he moved. The corruption and depravity of the human mind, too, must have become increasingly manifest to him. The problem of salvation never could have seemed more distressing or difficult. And, in the midst of his occupation, the contrary currents of worldly thought and human ambition must have been felt by him.

II. ITS ULTIMATE REASON. The circumstances of fatigue and excitement in themselves would not account for the anxiety displayed by Christ to secure opportunity for devotion; it is as associated with his unique personality and aim that they acquire significance. For it is only as arising from personal longing and necessity, that such a departure from the scene of his labours can be understood. We are not to suppose that it was done for an example; the whole proceeding would thereby be rendered too artificial and self-conscious. And yet the action itself was exemplary in the highest degree. Its value as a pattern for our imitation consists in its very absence of self-consciousness. We cannot help asking, "What was the place held by prayer in his spiritual life?" "How was the practice of devotion related to the inward needs-be of his nature?" It was not simply a reaction of overwrought feeling or an instinctive craving for emotional relief and variation. By his entire spiritual constitution he was intimately related to the Father. The filial bond was infinitely strong, tender, and intense. His true life was twofold - a giving forth of himself to man, and receiving from God; the latter was necessary to the efficiency of the former. He said, "I can of mine own self do nothing," and therefore he ever sought communion with his unseen Father:

1. For restoration of spiritual power.

2. To maintain the elevation of his feeling and purpose.

3. For comfort and encouragement.

III. How IT WAS PREPARED FOR. There is a climax in the text; an impression is thereby conveyed of inward trouble, leading to painstaking effort, which results in final relief and comfort.

1. He sought the Father early. "Very early, in the midst of the night," is the literal force of the words. His first impulse toward heavenly communion was obeyed. The thoughts which had kept the night wakeful were not corrupted by the new associations of another day. Are the first impressions of our minds on awaking Divine or human? of heaven or of earth? Do we earnestly seek to know first of all God's will, and strive to realize his presence? He who so prepares for the work and intercourse of the day will not be overtaken or surprised by evil. Better lose a little sleep than the restful communion of the Father.

2. His departure was secret. There was no consulting with flesh and blood. There are inward promptings and voices concerning which no earthly advice should be asked. It is possible that "Simon and they that were with him" were not a little disconcerted and annoyed that they had to seek for him; but even their presence would have been a hindrance. The solemn yet fascinating individualism of true prayer is not realized as it might be. Secret prayer is the background of earnest and real common prayer. In this matter we have not only the example but the injunction of Christ (Matthew 6:6).

3. Not only the actual presence of men but human associations were avoided. "He departed into a desert place. Such a situation, as formerly the weird solitudes of the Quaritanian Desert, harmonized with his spiritual mood. Wide upland spaces, far withdrawn, brought him nearer to the Unseen and Eternal, afforded larger views, spiritual as well as physical, and favored the ideality and inwardness that are essential to a great spirit.

The silence that is in the starry sky,
The sleep that is among the lonely hills," were an anodyne to his fretted and troubled heart; in nature he met God. Such a spot could only have been found at a distance, and this is further implied by the circumstance of the others following after him, and their message, "All are seeking thee." Lessons:

(1) Opportunities for secret prayer will be prized and even created by devout minds.

(2) If the purest and grandest moral Being the world has seen needed such communion with his Father, how much more such as we?

(3) God must be sought diligently, and before all else, if he is to be sought effectually.

(4) How difficult of access and realization is the oratory of the soul, where devotion may be free from earthliness, continuous and uninterrupted! ? M







And in the morning, rising up a great while before day.
Christians have often to choose between the indulgence of a little more sleep and the time of prayer cut short, and scant and hurried devotion, or between a little self-denial in sleep and the freshest and best hours of the day given to God, and God blessing the self-denial by answering the prayer.

(M. F. Sadler.)

Christ had no conveniences for securing quiet, but He made them. The hilltop was His chamber, and darkness His bolted door. He had no time for prayer, but He made time, rising "a great while before day." Say not you have no time or secret place for prayer. Where there is a will there is a way to get both these things.

(R. Glover.)

I. THE BEARING OF THIS FACT ON HIMSELF.

1. It proves the reality of His human nature.

2. It proves that as man He was subject to the same limitations and moral conditions as we are.

3. It proves that even sinless beings, when tried, need Divine help.

II. THE BEARING OF THIS FACT ON US.

1. If Jesus prayed, it is neither unscientific nor unbecoming in us to pray.

2. If Jesus prayed, no disciple can become so strong or holy as to be beyond the need of praying.

3. Prayer has positive power with God, and is more than a subjective influence.

4. If Jesus prayed, all ought and need to pray.

5. Having the name of Jesus to plead, everyone may be assured of being heard and answered.

(D. C. Hughes, M. A.)

What an example of swift, unselfish activity. The Saviour cannot forego prayer, it is too important and necessary; but He will not let it interfere with His activity in behalf of others. Keep this in mind when tempted to neglect prayer because time so much taken up with work.

I. ONLY BY COMBINING PRAYER AND WORK WILL WORK BE PREVENTED FROM INJURING US.

1. Even spiritual work may not always be beneficial; for it may draw us away from the cultivation of our own personal religious life; or foster within us the spirit of self-elation; or beget within us a feeling of despondency.

2. Secular work, it is easy to see, is likely to affect us injuriously. The wear and tear of the spirit, in the midst of the rush and roar of the world's business for six days in the week, will seriously unfit a man for spiritual exercises on the seventh. Transition from one order of occupation to the other will require an effort he will be too languid to put forth. No remedy but frequent intercourse with God in the midst of toil.

II. ONLY THUS WILL WORK BRING TRUE BLESSING. Prayer brings the Divine blessing down. Even Christ sought it thus. Do all work for God, and seek to have God with you in it all.

III. ONLY THUS WILL WORK BECOME A DELIGHT TO US. This is an important consideration, since with most of us life is filled with work. Would we not have it a refreshment rather than a burden? The most cheerful, patient and heroic toilers are those who are most constant in prayer. Only so can we do our work as it ought to be done, and get from it all the good it is intended to yield.

(B. Wilkinson.)

Christ was careful to use the best outward helps and furtherances to prayer, such as the opportunity of the morning and the privacy of the place. Whence we may gather, that to pray aright is a difficult work, and not easy to perform. If it were an easy matter, what need for such helps? Christ, indeed, had no need of such helps for Himself: set He used them for our instruction, to show us what need we have of them, and how hard a thing it is to pray well.

1. We have no ability of ourselves by nature to perform this duty (Romans 8:26).

2. There are many things to hinder us in the duty; especially Satan labouring continually to stir up hindrances and disturbances; also our own corrupt hearts, which are apt to be taken up at times of prayer with swarms of idle and wandering thoughts.

3. It is a duty of great excellence and profit, much and often commended in Scripture: no wonder, therefore, if it be difficult, for so are all excellent and precious duties.

4. Prayer is a holy conference with God; and it is hard to speak to God as we ought. Learn from all this the ignorance of those who think it so easy a matter to pray. Because they think it easy they go about it without preparation, without watchfulness over their hearts, and without using any helps to further them in the duty; and the consequence is that they pray in a very slight, perfunctory manner. If they repeat the bare words of the Lord's Prayer, or some other prayer (though without all understanding and feeling), they think this is enough. Indeed, this is an easy kind of praying, or rather saying of a prayer; for it is not rightly called praying, when only the words of a prayer are rehearsed. Such as know what it is to pray aright acknowledge it to be a difficult work. Let us be more diligent and frequent in the exercise of it, that it may become more easy to us.

(G. Petter.)

Colonel Gardiner used constantly to rise at four in the morning, and to spend his time till six in the secret exercises of the closet, reading, meditation, and prayer; in which last he acquired such a fervency of spirit as, says his biographer, "I believe few men living ever attained. This certainly very much contributed to strengthen that firm faith in God, and reverent, animating sense of His presence, for which He was so eminently remarkable, and which carried him through the trials and services of life with such steadiness and with such activity; for he indeed endured and acted as if always seeing Him who is invisible. If at any time he was obliged to go out before six in the morning, he rose proportionally sooner; so that, when a journey or a march has required him to be on horseback by four, he would be at his devotions by two."

Eighteen times our Lord's own prayers are alluded to or quoted; but those passages give us only four aspects of His prayers.

I. HIS HABIT of prayer. In five passages (Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12; Luke 5:16; Matthew 14:23; Mark 6:46) we have our Lord withdrawing for prolonged private prayer; at a time when involved in the whirl of public work; before appointing His apostles and establishing His kingdom. In a sixth passage (Luke 11:1) this habit so impressed the disciples that they asked Him to teach them how to pray.

II. HIS THANKFULNESS in prayer. In five more passages, three (Matthew 11:25; John 11:41; Luke 10:21) quote an ejaculation of gratitude. The others (Luke 3:21; Luke 9:28) are on the occasions of His baptism and transfiguration; the one initiating Him into His mission of teaching, the other into His mission of suffering.

III. HIS INTERCESSION in prayer.

1. For His friends (Luke 22:32).

2. For His enemies (Luke 23:34).

3. For Himself and His disciples as one with Him (John 17)

IV. HIS OBEDIENCE in prayer (Matthew 26:39; Mark 15:34; Luke 22:42; John 12:27). We may draw from these prayers —

1. An argument in favour of our Lord's divinity. There is no confession of sin. He prays for, never with, His disciples.

2. We may see an example for ourselves in

(1)His belief in the habit of prayer;

(2)the reverent limit He assigned to prayer — "Not My will," etc.;

(3)His practice of private super-added to public prayer;

(4)His joyful continuance in prayer.

(Prof. A. S. Farrar.)

I.LONELY.

II.PREPARATORY.

III.SELF-DENYING.

IV.LEISURELY.

V.LINGERING.

VI.BLISSFUL.

(W. H. Jellie.)

I. That the Saviour, though perfectly holy, regarded the duty of secret prayer as of great importance.

II. That He sought a solitary place for it — far away from the world, and even His disciples.

III. That it was early in the morning — the first thing after rising-always the best time, and a time when it should not be omitted.

IV. If Jesus prayed, how much more important is it for us. If He did it in the morning, how much more important is it for us, before the world gets possession of our thoughts; before Satan fills us with unholy feelings; when we rise fresh from beds of repose, and while the world around us is still! David thus prayed (Psalm 5:3). He that wishes to enjoy religion will seek a place of secret prayer in the morning. If that is omitted all will go wrong — our piety will wither, the world will fill our thoughts, temptations will be strong, and through the day we shall find it impossible to raise our feelings to a state of proper devotion. The religious enjoyment through the day will be according to the state of the heart in the morning; and can, therefore, be measured by our faithfulness in early, secret prayer. How different the conduct of the Saviour from those who spend the precious hours of the morning in sleep! He knew the value of the morning hours, etc.

(A. Barnes, D. D.)

I. THE FACT OF HIS PRAYING. It is a wonderful fact that one like Him should pray at all. But it may be explained.

1. He prayed as a Man.

2. He prayed as Mediator.

3. He prayed as an Example.

II. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF HIS PRAYING.

1. Early. "His morning smiles bless all the day."

2. Frequent.

3. Long. Much of the heart may be thrown into a short prayer.

(Various.)

I. THE MYSTERY OF THE PRAYERS OF JESUS. If Jesus is God, how could He pray to God? How were there any needs in His nature on behalf of which He could pray? A partial answer is found in the truth that all prayers do not spring from a sense of need. The highest form of prayer is conversation with God — the familiar talk of a child with his Father. 's "Confessions" is an example of this. But the only adequate explanation is Christ's humanity; He was wholly man. Human nature in Him was a tender thing, and had to fail back on the strength of prayer.

II. HIS HABITS OF PRAYER. He went into the solitudes of nature. There is a solitude of time as well as of space. It might be an enriching discovery to find out the solitudes in our neighbourhood: silent, soothing influence of nature. Christ prayed in company as well as in secret.

III. THE OCCASIONS ON WHICH HE PRAYED.

1. He prayed before taking an important step in life, as when He chose which men to be with Him.

2. He prayed when His life was specially busy; when He could not find time to eat He found time to pray. We make that an excuse for not praying. Christ made it a reason for praying.

3. He prayed before entering temptation.

4. He died praying.

IV. THE ANSWER TO HIS PRAYERS.

1. The Transfiguration was an answer to prayer — "As He prayed," etc.

2. His baptism was an answer to prayer. Are you a man of prayer?

(J. Stalker, M. A.)

I. How diligent the Saviour was in the improvement of His time.

II. That no crowd of company or calls of business could divert Jesus from His daily, stated devotions.

III. What care our Lord took to find a place of solitude for His prayers, that He might neither meet with disturbance, nor seem ostentatious.

1. One reason why we should retire to a secret place for solitary prayer is, that we may avoid the appearance of ostentation.

2. That we may be undisturbed.

3. That our minds may enjoy greater freedom in communion with God.

(J. Lathrop, D. D.)

The Congregational Pulpit.
I. As simple INTERCOURSE WITH GOD.

II. View it in relation to His WORK. So do we need constant prayer in the midst of our work.

1. For calm and holy review.

2. For direction — asking wisdom of God, just as a mariner consults his compass.

3. For qualifications — mental, moral, and even physical.

4. For success. God giveth the increase.

5. For freedom from perverting influences. Our motives are apt to get entangled and our aims confused. In prosperity we are in danger of waxing egotistic, vain, and proud. See it in many a successful business man, and in many a popular minister. In adversity we are tempted to despond.

(The Congregational Pulpit.)

I. TO EXPLAIN AS EXERCISE OF SECRET DEVOTION. It is little we know of the private life of Christ. In silence there is much instruction. He was often in private retirement (Luke 6:12; Luke 21:37; Luke 22:39; John 6:15).

1. The occasion on which our Lord betakes Himself to this exercise of secret devotion. You observe the connection — after a day of laborious occupation in the public exercises of religion, He sought an opportunity for secret devotion: the one no excuse for the neglect of the other. In the public exercises of religion we most need the private exercises of devotion. There are reasons for this. It is in private that the impressions of the public ordinances must be maintained on the mind. It prevents relapse. Besides, this is a time of peculiar temptation. If a Christian in his public exercises had attained to high enjoyment, every stratagem will be used by Satan to rob him of his treasure. Besides, it is necessary to follow our public services with secret exercises, that we may bring the former to the test. In public we are apt to be excited, but feelings that are excited may be deceitful; and every wise man will test these feelings in the presence of God alone.

2. The next circumstance in this exercise that attracts our attention is the time that our Lord was pleased to choose for it — "In the morning." His self-denial. The morning is favourable to devotion, our minds are not yet disturbed by the cares of the day. What anxiety to give God the best of His services.

3. The place He sought for it. The works of the Divine hand are aids to devotion.

4. The exercise itself — "He prayed." Christ as man needed to pray. We can conceive of Adam in innocence praying; but our Lord needed prayer, as being the subject of sinless infirmity; but above all as Mediator. Suggest a few aids to secret devotion —

(1)Self-examination;

(2)meditation;

(3)a determination of future obedience.Christ came out of His solitude with purposes to do the will of His heavenly Father.

II. I AM TO ENFORCE THE DUTY OF SECRET DEVOTION BY A CONSIDERATION OF ITS BENEFITS.

1. It has a tendency to produce godliness. Because it brings us into contact with God. It produces simplicity, and godly sincerity, and gentleness.

2. Secret devotion is most favourable to the comfort of the mind. Devotion soothes the mind; it elevates the mind. It imparts joy in religion.

3. Secret devotion is most favourable to usefulness. The secret of usefulness among men is a spirit of piety toward God.

(J. Morgan.)

In the very manner in which he speaks to everyone he meets, in the very way he discharges every duty to which he is called, his spirit is as it ought to be, and therefore the man is walking up and down in society, scattering blessings "on the right hand and on the left." On the other hand, suppose him to have neglected the exercises of secret devotion, he comes out into society with a ruffled temper, with a dissatisfied spirit, finding fault with everybody, with everything, dissatisfied with all, because dissatisfied with himself, neglecting opportunities, doing nothing as it ought to be done, losing the opportunity that God in His providence gives him. Again, look at the spirit in which such a man conducts himself towards others. The spirit of the man of God is a spirit of humility Think of the language of the 126th Psalm, "He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing bringing his sheaves with him" — the man that goes forth in genuine humility and true modesty, and attempts his work, not in the spirit of intrusion or interference, but simply in the strength of God, is the man who in the end will be successful. It is not only the spirit which he cherishes towards man, but that which he cherishes towards God, that insures success. Towards man, his spirit is modest and humble, towards God it is the spirit of dependence. And then you observe in him great steadfastness. He has been with God in the morning in the exercise of secret devotion, and therefore though he may meet with difficulty during the day, he is not to be stumbled by it; it may retard him, it may distress him, but he knows too well what he was to expect, to be overcome; he acts on that principle assured of its justice, "therefore be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as you know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord."

(J. Morgan.)

Dr. Doddridge tells us that to his habit of early rising the world is indebted for nearly the whole of his valuable works. The well-known Bishop Burnett was an habitual early riser, for when at college his father aroused him to his studies every morning at four o'clock; and he continued the practice during the remainder of his life. Sir Thomas More also made it his invariable practice to rise always at four, and if we turn our attention to royalty, we have, among others, the example of Peter the Great, who, whether at work in the docks at London as a ship carpenter, or at the anvil as a blacksmith, or on the throne of Russia, always rose before daylight.

Dr. Milne, afterwards the famous missionary in China, when a youth, after leaving home, was situated in an ungodly family. So he used to retire to a sheepcote, where the sheep were kept in winter, and there, surrounded by the sheep, he knelt on a piece of turf which he kept and carried with him for the purpose, spending many an hour there, even in the cold of winter, in sweet communion with his God.

(Anon.)

It is a little difficult, especially when the mornings are dark and cold, to get up sufficiently early to have profitable communion with God. Ask God for getting up grace. A friend told us a few days since that she traced much failure in her religious life to late rising, but God had given her victory over the old habit of lying in bed until the last minute. If Jesus Christ found it necessary to rise "a great while before day," and depart "into a solitary place" to pray, we have need to be with God before the work of the day begins. Ward Beecher says: "Let the day have a blessed baptism by giving your first waking thoughts to God. The first hour of the morning is the rudder of the day."

I. That private prayer SHOULD BE ENJOYED IN THE EARLY MORNING.

1. Because it insures time for the performance of prayer.

2. Because it is the time when the soul is most free from care and anxiety.

3. Because the world is silent — favourable to the voice of prayer.

4. Because it is favourable to unostentation.

5. Because it is a good husbanding of time.

II. That private prayer should be PERFORMED BY THE BUSIEST LIFE.

1. The neglect of private devotion by a busy life is injudicious.

2. The neglect of private devotion by a busy life is inexcusable.

III. Private prayer SHOULD NOT BE INTERRUPTED BY POPULARITY.

IV. Private prayer will AID AND INSPIRE IN THE CONTINUED MINISTRY OF LIFE. "And He said unto them, Let us go unto the next towns, that I may preach there also" (ver. 38).

1. Thus private prayer stimulates to continued activity in life.

2. Private prayer enables a man to awaken the moral activity of others.

V. Private prayer LEADS TO A HIGH APPRECIATION OF THE TRUE MISSION OF LIFE. Lessons:

1. That early morning is a good time for prayer.

2. That solitude is favourable to devotion.

3. That the best men need private prayer.

4. That the most busy men have no excuse for the neglect of private devotion.

5. That secret prayer is the strength of all moral life and activity.

(J. S. Exell, M. A.)

The most orient pearls are generated of the morning dew. Abraham and Job both rose early to offer sacrifice. The Persian magi sang hymns to their gods at break of day, and worshipped the rising sun.

(Trapp.)

It has been said, The morning is a friend to the muses, and it is no less so to the graces.

(M. Henry.)

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