Mark 1:35 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.
This verse has always been an encouragement to me, but a lot of people seem to prefer to ignore it. Getting up early to pray requires adherence to priorities that can be very difficult in modern society. Sleep is of course essential for everyone, and many things combine to keep us up late at night. Early morning prayer was easier before electricity! Actually, many people are becoming aware of the dangers of late-night “screen time,” whether it be TV, computer, or increasingly, smart phones. Phones these days have “night mode” to cut down the amount of blue light emitted, but that doesn’t correct the basic problem of staying awake late. As people get older they naturally tend to go to bed earlier and get up earlier, so I’m not very convincing in talking to young people about early morning devotions! All of that is actually peripheral to the central issue of placing fellowship with God first, in both time and energy. One thing Jesus did here can be very important, and that is getting away from distractions, and specifically other people. I’ve been at Christian meetings where they were trying to encourage people to have morning devotions, but everything was organized into groups. Group worship and group prayer are wonderful, but they are no substitute for a personal, individual relationship with Heavenly Father. That’s why “a solitary place” (the Japanese says, “a lonely place”) is highly advisable, if available.
I’ve written before about how I knew morning devotions were advisable, but when I tried to get into the practice as a college student I didn’t last long at all. I think I literally fulfilled a Japanese proverb about abandoning resolutions after three days. It wasn’t until several years later, as a married father, after God showed me the state of my soul and I repented in tears, that I became hungry enough for God that I actually got into the habit of praying and reading the Bible every morning. That’s been 48 years ago now, and I can hardly imagine living any other way. Whatever people might say of me now, I certainly wasn’t an “old codger” when I started! Because my handwriting is so poor, or perhaps because I’m such a geek, I’ve found computers to be very helpful for my devotional notes, but some people might be the other way around. As a pastor, I think getting the believers into a consistent practice of daily devotions is one of my strongest goals, but I have little wisdom in how to make it happen. It all comes down to answering the Father’s call to come close to Him.
Father, thank You for enabling me to answer Your call. I pray that I would be increasingly effective in encouraging others to do so as well, so that together we may be the useful disciples that Your desire, doing Your will on Your schedule for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!