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Gospel of Mark 1: 29-39 (NIV)
29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30 Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her. 31 So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.
32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all who were ill and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.
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. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”
38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so that I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39 So he travelled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
The sabbath was over once the sun had set (see Mark 1: 21). As a consequence people then brought to Jesus all who were ill and demon-possessed. Although Jesus healed many and drove out many demons, that was not why he was there in Capernaum. Presumably as Jesus healed and exorcised he was also preaching and teaching those who needed healing, those who had been unable to attend the synagogue. As he later said to Simon and his companions when he went elsewhere in order to preach: “That is why I have come.”
We may wonder at Jesus’ evident super-human stamina and resilience. Although he was Son of God, he lived with the constraints of a human body which required food, regular hydration and rest for recovery. Nonetheless, Jesus had a higher priority than physical sustenance; his priority was to be in constant communion with the Father. That is why, “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” (verse 35).
Sometimes the demands of ministry result in our receiving less sleep than we think we need. Sometimes we are required to skip meals in order to keep appointments with the people for whom we exercise care. Sometimes even our prayers are cut short because of the immediacy of other people’s needs for pastoral care. How great a priority do we assign on these occasions to prayer, to maintaining a deep and continuous focus on the Father?
Yes, we have read of Jesus’ desire to withdraw by boat privately to a solitary place (Matthew 14: 13) to pray, only to find that the people needing his attention followed him from the towns on foot. He had compassion on them and, instead of insisting on being alone, he healed their sick.
We too are called to sacrifice personal time for others. But we are called also to put aside time regularly to spend with the Father in prayer even as we offer brief prayers and appeals for strength or wisdom during each day.
Lord, teach us to pray (Luke 11: 1).