The Man of Prayer
No consideration of the Savior’s humanity is adequate, I believe, that fails to consider a simple fact, mentioned often in the Gospels: He prayed. Indeed, if we reflect that prayer is the highest human activity, we should say that his prayer reveals more about Jesus as a human being than anything else he did.
Holy Scripture conveys the impression that our Lord was fond of praying alone and out-of-doors. For instance, Mark writes of the earliest days of Jesus’ ministry: “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, he went out and departed to a solitary place; and there he prayed” (1:35). In the Greek text, that final verb—“prayed”—is expressed in the imperfect tense, which denotes continued and/or repeated action. Mark thereby implies that Jesus spent a significant period of time in that prayer. It began in the dark and ended after sunrise. Jesus prayed through the transition from night into day.
We know he also prayed through the transition from light to darkness—day to night. Mark writes of this somewhat later; the scene comes immediately after the multiplication of the loaves, which happened late in the day (6:35). Mark describes the apostles getting into their boat to sail away, while Jesus remains behind on the shore. Mark writes, “And when he had sent them away, he departed to the mountain to pray. Now when evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea; and he was alone on the land” (6:46–47). Here, the prayer of Jesus is said to begin in the light and continue into the darkness. It is not broken off until very late—“the fourth watch” (6:48; cf. Matt. 14:23–25).
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Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).
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