Late that evening, after sunset, they kept bringing to him all who were sick or troubled by evil spirits. The whole population of the town gathered round the doorway. And he healed great numbers of people who were suffering from various forms of disease. In many cases he expelled evil spirits; but he would not allow them to say a word, for they knew perfectly well who he was.
Then, in the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a deserted place, and there he prayed. Simon and his companions went in search of him, and when they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.
“Then we will go somewhere else, to the neighbouring towns,” he replied, “so that I may give my message there too—that is why I have come.”
So he continued preaching in their synagogues and expelling evil spirits throughout the whole of Galilee. (Mark 1:32-39 JBP)
The whole town gathered at His doorway. He healed great numbers of people who were suffering with all kinds of issues and disorders. God in the flesh had come to a sleepy little town filled with people in desperate need. And I'm sure when the last person left the house it was significantly late in the evening, if not well into the early morning hours. And you just have to love the next verse...very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a deserted place, and there he prayed. I'm not exactly sure what this looked like, but maybe he prayed the words of Psalm 23..."He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul...my cup overflows...and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." Or maybe it was the words of Psalm 37..."Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart." Or perhaps even Psalm 131...I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me." Whatever he prayed, it gave him life and sustenance and renewal...and direction for the day ahead.
While he was off by himself spending this intimate time with His Father, much was going on back in town. People had heard; they had caught wind of the happenings of the night before and were already knocking on the door again, probably before it was even light outside. Maybe they had brought a neighbor or a family friend, or a relative from a few miles away. But the words the disciples meet Jesus with when they finally do find him tell the whole story. "Where are you? Don't you know that everyone is looking for you? There are more needy people at our doorstep, come on, get with it, we have to go do something about this."
But the answer Jesus gives them shows us something very telling about the time he had just spent with his Father. It was that time and space that guided and determined his life and his steps; not demands, not needs, not expectations...there will always be those, just as there will always be needy and broken and hurting people. Jesus' life and direction was determined by something much deeper and bigger than that, it was determined by the voice of God. He guides me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake say the beautiful words of the ancient prayer (Psalm 23:3). And indeed it's true. Prayer determined Jesus' direction. What determines mine?
It is our life (and time and space) with God that must determine everything, if it is ever to be of any eternal value or significance. He must determine my steps, the details of my day, and more importantly my mission and my purpose. Too often, if I don't have a very clear picture of who God wants me to be and what he wants me to be about, I can get distracted or derailed by the thousand-and-one details, expectations, demands, and voices of the external world and lose track of that eternal must he has placed deep within me. I must be led by something larger than events, expectations, demands, or circumstances. I must be guided by something with substance, with true rootedness. I guess the question becomes: Unless I consistently make time and space for God, and for prayer, how will I ever know if the things that have found their way onto my plate are really the things that are mine (the things He has in mind for me) to do? There is a very thin, and sometimes almost indiscernible, line between calling and compulsion; between what God is truly calling me to be about versus what I think I need to be about due to my own deepest fears and insecurities. Sometimes it's really hard to tell the difference between the two. Therefore, let us be like Jesus, and let us early in the morning, while it is still dark, get up, leave the house and go off to a deserted place, and pray.