O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
at the Jordan you revealed Jesus as your Son:
may we recognize him as our Lord
and know ourselves to be your beloved children;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour.
O give thanks to the Lord and call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples.
Sing to him, sing praises,
and tell of all his marvellous works.
Rejoice in the praise of his holy name;
let the hearts of them rejoice who seek the Lord.
Seek the Lord and his strength;
seek his face continually.
Remember the marvels he has done,
his wonders and the judgements of his mouth,
O seed of Abraham his servant,
O children of Jacob his chosen.
He is the Lord our God;
his judgements are in all the earth.
He has always been mindful of his covenant,
the promise that he made for a thousand generations:
The covenant he made with Abraham,
the oath that he swore to Isaac.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now and shall be for ever. Amen.
As soon as Jesus and his disciples left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, ‘Everyone is searching for you.’ He answered, ‘Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.’ And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
While it was still very dark, Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.
One of the things that has been said many times during the last ten months is that an increasing number of people have had their need to pray awakened by the crisis in which we find ourselves. Perhaps you are one of those whose prayer life has found new depth and regularity during the time our lives have been dominated by the coronavirus. Alternatively, you may be one of those who have struggled to connect with God as infection rates have soared and the number of recorded deaths has grown. Wherever you might find yourself, the description we have of Jesus praying in today’s reading should lead us into reflecting on our prayer lives.
We are told that in the morning, while it was still very dark, Jesus got up. In these long, dark and cold days, and especially as we are not supposed to be going out of our houses, we like to stay snuggled up where it is cosy and warm. Few of us, and that includes those who naturally wake up while it is still very dark, think of taking those first waking moments of the day to God in prayer. When we pray we like to have a routine that usually revolves around a comfortable chair, a view of the garden and, perhaps, a cup of coffee. This was not so for Jesus. The very first priority for Jesus was to pray to God, to share with his Father the cares and concerns of those to whom he was called to minister.
Having established the prime importance of prayer, we then read that Jesus went out to a deserted place to pray. Deserted places are not always that easy to find. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology we are rarely alone. Mobile phones, tablets, laptops and even traditional land-line phones are a constant presence. If we do live alone we tend to surround ourselves with these things ‘just in case’ we might need help. This is, of course, a sensible approach, provided we do not let these things, as well as other people, intrude into our deserted place of prayer.
Some may wonder about the importance of a deserted place in which to speak to God. In answer to that question I would suggest taking a moment to reflect on the intimacy of true prayer. We all have matters in our lives that we would not want to share with others. We consider interviews with doctors, financial advisers and our closest friends to be ‘private’. When we speak to those people we share secrets and intimate details that are not for the ears of others. It is the same when we pray. We are called to take to God our innermost thoughts and fears, secrets and feelings of guilt, moments of elation and thanksgiving. Surely these need that deserted place in order that we might set aside our human tendency for gloss and obfuscation. It is in that deserted place, whatever it may look like, that we can be truly honest with God.
Finally we read: and there he prayed. We may consider the comfortable chair and the ‘awake’ mind to be prerequisites to prayer. But, is that what God wants of us? Surely God wants the freshness of the mind that is not cluttered with the affairs of the day. Surely God wants our undivided attention as we offer him our service and our love. Surely God wants us to set aside our lists of needs and demands and be open to his small voice as he speaks to us in prayer.
Let us look to the model of prayer we are given by Jesus. Let us, while it is still very dark, like Jesus get up and go out to a deserted place, and there let us pray.
Prayers of intercession
Let us pray for the healing of all ills in the Church and in the world.
May the Church ever proclaim the message of salvation and bring to others the new life which is in Christ. May she receive in love all who come to her with their needs.
We pray for all who are worn down by the weight of responsibility, those who are under stress in their work and their relationships. Give them the wisdom to draw apart, the grace to be still and find new strength in the presence of God.
Bless us in our families, and with our friends and neighbours, to care for the sick and help the weak.
Have compassion on those who are suffering from illness or injury, bring them relief and give skill to all who work for healing. Comfort and uphold those who care for the sick in their own homes.
We give thanks for the departed who are free from pain and weakness and are made whole in the life of heaven. May we in our time be granted the same mercy.
We pray in the name of Christ, the divine Healer.
Prayer for the week
Loving Father, we pray for all
who are any way troubled at this time.
Give relief to those in pain,
friendship to those who are alone,
reassurance to those in doubt or distress of mind;
and may our love be so strong that seeing need
we may never pass by on the other side.
We make our prayer in the name of Jesus Christ,
our loving Lord and Saviour.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.
Put thou thy trust in God,
in duty’s path go on;
walk in his strength with faith and hope,
so shall thy work be done.
Commit thy ways to him,
thy works into his hands,
and rest on his unchanging word,
who heaven and earth commands.
Paul Gerhardt (1607–1676)
translated by John Wesley (1703–1791) and others