Jesus Prays and Draws Us into Prayer - Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany
Rev. Charles Westby, Pastor
Mark 1:35
February 07, 2021

In our Gospel reading this morning we see that immediately after leaving the synagogue in Capernaum, Jesus went to Simon Peter’s house. Simon’s mother-in-law was lying sick in bed with a fever. Jesus took her by the hand and lifted her up. The fever left her immediately (Mark 1:29-31).

Then after the sun went down, people in Capernaum were bringing those suffering from various illnesses and sicknesses to Jesus, along with those who were tormented and dominated by demons. He healed many of them and cast out and drove away the demons (Mark 1:32-34). These things show us Jesus’s care and concern for His assaulted and distressed fellow humans. They also shows us His almighty power. They show us who He is.

In the middle of all of this, we find verse 35: “[I]n the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, [[Jesus] went out and departed to a solitary place, and there He prayed” (Mark 1:35 NKJV).

We see Jesus, our brother. He is in the midst of the depths of His ministry as Savior to people in need. He is in the midst of depths of His battle with the evil one. In the midst of all this, we see Him finding a solitary place to seek His Father’s face.

He seeks the recharging that we humans need. He is true man. As true man, He exercises faith, that is, reliance on His Father. He seeks out His heavenly Father in prayer. In this, He identifies with us and shows us the way.

We aren’t told what He prayed for on this occasion, but we could look to the Psalms for indications. The Psalms are like the Bible’s prayer book. A beneficial study you could do, which I did in the last few days, is to glance through the Psalms, Psalm by Psalm, to find instances where it talks about prayer, and then read those places carefully. A lot can be learned from this. There are often key words to look for like “prayer” or “pray,” “hear” or “answer me,” and such.

As Jesus was in the midst of His ministry, these words from Psalm 27, verse 8, may have been motivating Him: Lord, “You have said, ‘Seek my face.’ My heart says to you, ‘Your face, Lord, do I seek’” (Psalm 27:8 ESV). And then He must have given thanks and praise to God the Father for who God the Father is. There is a lot of this in the Psalms. Our Psalm for today is an example. It says, “Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God: For it is pleasant and a song of praise is fitting” (Psalm 147:1 ESV). And then it is quite likely that He thanked God for being Creator and sustainer of all things (Psalm 147:7-9). And in the midst of His ministry, we could easily hear Jesus confess the truth of the words of Psalm 147: “He does not delight in the strength of the horse; he takes no pleasure in the legs of a man. The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy” (Psalm 147:10-11 NKJV).

This statement about taking no pleasure in the legs of a man has to do with strength and power. It means that the Lord takes no pleasure in human strength and power. He takes pleasure in those who fear Him, who trust in His mercy, who rely upon His power, who seek Him in the midst of it all.

Now there are Psalms that teach us to be humble and confess our sins to our Father, trusting in His grace and mercy to forgive. There is Psalm 51:1, for example: “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51:1-3). There is Psalm 32: “I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, ‘I will confession my transgressions to the Lord,’ and You forgave the iniquity of my sin” (Psalm 32:5).

Jesus didn’t need to confess any sin to the Father, but we need to do so. These Psalms teach us to confess our sins in reliance on God’s mercy in prayer.

There are many Psalms that involve prayer for deliverance from enemies. As Jesus would face stiff opposition, this kind of prayer must have been involved.

There is so much more we could say from the Psalms. But here we see Jesus seeking a solitary place to re-charge the batteries, so to speak. As our brother, in the midst of the depth of ministry, engaging in the deepest battle with the devil and all that besieges His fellow human beings, in the midst of the opposition from rulers and people that did not believe in Him that He would face, He did what faith does in the midst of the struggle. He sought His heavenly Father in prayer. He prayed for what the child of God prays for in reliance on our God, as the Psalms can teach us.

Our reading for today from Isaiah at verse 31 sums this up beautifully: “Those who wait on the Lord, shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31 NKJV). As our brother, Jesus shows us the way with the Father. So He leads us also to pray; to pray in the same faith, in the same hope, relying on the same power, in the midst of the depth of whatever our lives are confronting us with, in the same praise and thanksgiving. We are connected to Jesus through faith, through His Word, through Baptism, and in partaking of His body given and His blood shed to reconcile us to the Father. As we are connected to Him, we are also drawn in Him in His Spirit to seek our Father out in prayer. We are drawn by Jesus to wait upon our Father in faith, being encouraged by the same promise from Isaiah, that must have encouraged Him: “Those who wait on the Lord, shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Thanks be to God. Amen. 


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