Things that make you say “Duh!”
Over the years, I have collected funny (and dumb) warnings labels or instructions for various products. Whenever you read them, they sound completely obvious, and you wonder why the manufacturer even included them on the instructions or on a warning label. Here are a few of my favorites warning labels:
- On a wheelbarrow: “Not intended for highway use.”
- On an iron-on shirt pattern: “Do not iron while wearing shirt.”
- On a can pepper spray: “May irritate eyes.”
- On a Razor scooter: “Warning: This product moves when used.”
- On a microwave oven manual: “Do not use for drying pets.”
Let me give you another statement that probably makes you go “Duh”: As Christians, we should pray.
Even though that statement seems obvious to followers Jesus, the reality is that we don’t pray much. In a recent survey, 87% of believers indicated the desire to spend time in prayer every day, yet 69% do not set aside time to pray. The number one reason people give for not praying is that they are too busy to pray.
Even Jesus was Extremely Busy
However, busyness is not a phenomenon that has emerged in recent decades. Life has always been busy. Even Jesus had hectic days. Jesus was often too busy to eat (see Mark 3:20; 6:31) or so worn out he fell asleep in a boat even during a fierce storm (see Luke 8:23).
The Gospel of Mark describes a hectic day for Jesus in verses 1:21-34. It begins with Jesus entering a synagogue in Capernaum and teaching on the Sabbath. As he taught with incredible authority, Jesus was confronted by a demon-possessed man and healed him. After teaching at the synagogue, Jesus and the disciples arrived at the home of Andrew and Peter. During their stay, Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law from a fever. That evening, the entire town gathered around the house and brought those who were sick and demon-possessed. Jesus healed many who were ill and drove out many demons.
Notice what Jesus does next, “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35). Despite an overwhelming schedule, Jesus intentionally created time to pray and be with his Heavenly Father.
Entering the Secret Place
Just as Jesus prioritized his life around making time to be with God, we, as His followers, also need to develop this practice. Jesus teaches us the importance of creating space to encounter God when Jesus tells us, “But whenever you pray, enter into your inner room and shut your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6, LEB).
Notice that for Jesus, he rose “very early in the morning” (Mark 1:35). Why? Because once everyone else’s day commences, our opportunity to be alone with God begins to compete with the demands and needs of others. Mark describes the time as being “still dark.” The majority of people had not yet started their activities. The day was not yet busy.
Also, pay careful attention that Jesus “went out to a desolate place.” Jesus often withdrew to locations where no other people or things could compete or distract him from the one thing he truly desired (see Luke 5:16). Do you think Jesus took his iPad or phone with Him into the desolate place?
Maybe the desolate place is not just the absence of people but also the removal of things that can detour or hinders us from talking with God.
Therefore, Jesus instructs us to find a secret place and to “close the door”, so our time with God can be a distraction-free encounter.
Finally, Jesus informs us of the rewards of praying in the secret place. He says that when we enter the inner, secret place to pray to God, “who is in secret”, Your Father is already in the secret place. He has gone ahead of you and is waiting for you. The moment you enter the secret place, you are in the immediate presence of your Father, and he “will reward you” (Mathew 6:6).
What is Prayer?
After Jesus rose early and found a desolate place, the Scripture informs us that “there he prayed” (Mark 1:35). Jesus prayed. He did not check his email, read a book, or review his daily schedule. Instead, Jesus met with his Heavenly Father. Perhaps Jesus spent the entire time in thanksgiving and worship, maybe it was deep intercession for others, maybe it was just being still and enjoying the presence of God, maybe he prayed for Himself, or perhaps it was a combination of all these things. The priority wasn’t a formula.
The priority for Jesus was being with his Father.
Prayer must not be viewed as a religious obligation or a required activity. Trust me; we do not need to add more activities to our busy lives. Nor, does God want us to live our lives from a place of religious obligation.
Instead, we must view prayer as an opportunity to create space in our lives to be encountered by God.
Prayer involves us talking to God, but also making time and space to let God speak to us.
Prayer is a back and forth, continual conversation with God that comes out of a relationship of intimacy.
Making it Practical
Remember, life was busy for Jesus. In today’s world, Jesus would have intentionally sought a time and place free from people, email, social media, and other distractions to encounter his Father through prayer. I want to conclude this post with a very practical exercise for you to do this week: pull out your calendar or journal right now and schedule a meeting with God. Determine a time and place to pray that is quiet and distraction-free over the next seven days. For most, the mornings are a good time. But you might prefer an afternoon walk or an evening time. Set a modest goal – daily is ideal, but if that’s too much, try for three times for 10-15 minutes. The important part is for you to intentionally set aside time in a secret place for God to encounter you.