The Priority

“In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.” Mark 1:35

Mark’s Gospel reveals the habit of Jesus that undergirded The Priority He placed on private, personal prayer. Before His day got away from Him, Jesus met privately with God, before He undertook public ministry.

Luke the physician and historian, served alongside of Paul and Mark, during the aged apostle’s first imprisonment in Rome. There is little doubt that Mark shared with Luke the habit of Jesus to set aside time for intimate communication with The Father, before anyone or anything else could interfere with The Priority of a private conversation between The Father and The Son. Luke recorded,  

“When day came, Jesus left and went to a secluded place, and the crowds were searching for Him, and came to Him and tired to keep Him from getting away from them.” Luke 4:42

The Reformer, Marin Luther, gave his best three hours to God early in the morning. Those who pray before their day begins,  find they serve more effectively throughout the day. Prayerless intensity for the work of The Lord is a poor substitute for prayerful intimacy with The Lord of the work. Prayer warriors  learn to value intimacy over intensity.

“Prayer is the intimate communication between the Heavenly Father and His child.” Don Miller, Pastor, Preacher & Prayer Warrior

Setting aside time to meet with God, early in the morning, may appear to be a forced form of communication, especially for those who aren’t blessed with a biological clock that is set to rise before dawn. The world seems to be divided among those who are morning people, and those who are afflicted with morning sickness.  Can I get a witness?

Rising early is not a major problem for some people. They may not have a stronger desire for prayer. It may be a sleeping disorder. On the other hand, the snooze button was invented on purpose, not by accident. People do love their sleep. The issue for Jesus was one of a private priority, not personal preference.  He set one, and discarded the other.

Since The Father never sleeps, it is doubtful that early risers are held any closer to His heart than those who start their day a bit later. Still, Jesus started His day with The Father. Before He allowed anyone else to have a piece of Him, Jesus wanted to be at peace with His Father.  People at peace with The Father are not as likely to give people who disrupt their schedule a piece of their mind.

The Priority of prayer early in the day is not about The Father having time to meet with His children. It is about His children making time to meet with Him. They get with The Father before anyone else has a shot at setting the pace or suggesting a sense of direction for their day.

Perhaps the most pretentious of self-righteous people are those who have to remind those around them that they have just had their “Quiet Time.” These kind of announcements are more irritating than inspiring.

Note to self: Someone who has just spent time in The Presence of God shouldn’t have to announce it.  If people can’t tell it, by the look on your face, don’t get in their faces and tell them about it. Jesus was thinking of you when He said, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men.” Matthew 6:1

Those who have set aside time to meet with The Father in the morning may begin this habit out of sense of necessity, but it soon develops into intimacy. The fondness for The Father’s comforting Presence, becomes far greater than their own personal preference for a comforting mattress.  Poet Ralph Kushman expressed it this way.

“I met God in the morning When my day was at its best, And His Presence came like sunrise Like a glory in my breast.

All day long the Presence lingered, All day long He stayed with me, And we sailed in perfect calmness O'er a very troubled sea.

Other ships were blown and battered, Other ships were sore distressed, But the winds that seemed to drive them Brought to us a peace and rest.

Then I thought of other mornings, With a keen remorse of mind, When I, too, had loosed the moorings With the Presence left behind.

So I think I know the secret, Learned from many a troubled way; You must seek Him in the morning If you want Him through the day.”

Reformers, poets and preachers have all discovered that there is no substitute for establishing The Priority of Prayer. Robert Murray M’Cheyne, 1813-1843, Scottish pastor who died at 29 years of age, discovered in his short life this profound truth.

"I ought to pray before seeing any one. Often when I sleep long, or meet with others early, it is eleven or twelve o'clock before I begin secret prayer. This is a wretched system. It is unscriptural. Christ arose before day and went into a solitary place. David says: 'Early will I seek thee'; 'Thou shalt early hear my voice.' Family prayer loses much of its power and sweetness, and I can do no good to those who come to seek from me. The conscience feels guilty, the soul unfed, the lamp not trimmed. Then when in secret prayer the soul is often out of tune, I feel it is far better to begin with God—to see his face first, to get my soul near him before it is near another."

Making time and having time are not mutually exclusive. The habit of the former is closely related to the availability of the latter. Anyone interested in setting The Priority of Prayer is going to have to discover that time of the day when it is most conducive for them to establish unbroken communication with The Father. It is rarely the same for everyone, and it is not likely to remain unchanged throughout one’s life. The point is…PRAY!

Setting The Priority means that something else will have to be interrupted or discarded to make time for prayer. Those who set aside time to get with God are rewarded. Meeting with God, before anyone else or any other interruption is worth the price that is paid to set The Priority.

Jesus prayed and paid it all. Those who pray at all soon learn to do so A.S.A.P. They gain a fresh understanding of the value of intimate communication with The Father.  TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!