“Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.” –  Mark 1:35

We are backtracking a bit today, but I think it is well worth the trip.

In this verse, Jesus, the Son of God who was with God from the very beginning, took time out to find a quiet place to pray.  He took time to commune with God, to speak with God, and He separated himself from other people and, from the description here, audible distractions.

What does this say about us and what we need to do as followers of Christ?  Yes, we know we need to pray.  But, how do we view prayer and its impact to our overall walk with God?

I’ll admit, prayer can be difficult, especially when you understand what prayer is.  It is not the one-way conversation we might think it is with you simply talking, and talking, and talking to God.  Instead it is about taking time to talk to God and listening patiently and intentionally for what He may have to say to you as well.  The latter part especially takes quieting your mind and removing distractions to be sure you can hear Him.

I struggle with prayer a lot.  Quieting my mind for prayer can sometimes be a complete and utter train-wreck.  I try, but then a thought comes into my mind about my day or my schedule or something I just remembered I forgot to do, and suddenly I am on some crazy “rabbit trail” completely distracted from my prayer.  Or, my quiet place to pray is suddenly invaded by children who are arguing over a chore or a toy, and before that escalates I need to step in and help them resolve their disagreement.

I also battle in my mind with the concept of the “right way” to pray.  In Matthew chapter 6 verses 9-13, Jesus Himself gives us an example of how to pray in what most of us are familiar with as the Lord’s Prayer.  Some of you may also be familiar with utilizing the acronym ACTS when it comes to prayer – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication.  In conversations with other Christians, I have heard the comment that you should speak to Him as your friend.  But on the flip side, there is remembering that He is God and you need to enter into prayer recognizing  who He is, our Almighty God, and who you are not.  Those different ideas swirl around in my head leaving me lost and confused about what exactly is the “right way” to pray.

And praying out loud in public, singling myself out in front of a group of people when I do not even feel confident about my ability to pray on my own?  That just does not happen, or at least not often.

Prayer can be so frustrating!  And frustration can lead me to giving up or pushing me forward.  I have made a choice to let it push me forward because of verses like Mark 1:35.  If Jesus, God Incarnate, the only living man who was God in human form and who knew God most intimately, had to take quiet time to be with God, to talk with God, to listen to God, then what about me?  I am nowhere close to knowing the heart and mind of God as Jesus did!  How can I say I walk with God and not make prayer, both talking to Him and listening for Him, a regular part of my time with Him?  Yes, there may be obstacles to overcome in finding new ways to deal with distractions and in changing my mindset on a “right way” to pray.  But those are hurdles that I cannot afford to not try to leap over in my walk with God if I truly want to know Him!

You might be one of our prayer warriors who every day immediately drops to your knees in worship and prayer upon getting out of bed.  But maybe you are more like me, someone who finds yourself in a constant struggle with prayer.  If you are the latter, I want to encourage you to make this year a year of change in your prayer life.  Maybe it means setting your alarm to get up before the rest of your household to make time for prayer or finding a truly quiet place in your house removed from all distractions.  Or maybe it could be that you begin taking part in our monthly prayer and fasting day or Saturday morning prayer breakfast.  Whatever it is, take that first step toward moving into a closer walk with God in prayer.