After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray. (Mark 6:46)
Did Jesus really need to pray?
He was the Son of God. He was the God-Man. He was very God of very God.
Did He do it just to set an example? That doesn’t seem to be the case. Otherwise, why would He leave the disciples to pray by Himself?
I start with the premise that, “Yes”, Jesus did need to pray. There is no doubt in my mind He left the disciples in our passage today for the expressed purpose of communing with the Father. He needed to pray. He wanted to pray. He intentionally went to pray.
But, of course, for obvious reasons we still wonder why it was necessary. Let me toss out some possibilities:
Jesus needed to pray because prayer was a human means of communication with God, and Jesus was human. Jesus was God, but He was also human flesh. His body was not His host, but a part of His person. When they scourged Jesus during His trial, He felt pain. When they drove the nails through His hands and feet He bled. And people who hurt and bleed need to pray.
Could Jesus have circumvented prayer? Perhaps that would have possible. But then He would not have been fully human (even as He was fully God). He would not have experienced the struggle of finding time to pray…of praying in the midst of a storm…of praying when every nerve in His body sent streaks of excruciating pain to His brain: “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.”
Jesus needed to pray because He was in hostile territory. When Jesus came to earth, He effectively parachuted behind enemy lines. He engaged Satan on His own turf and challenged Him at every turn. He cast out demons, rebuked evil doers, and set sinners free. Every warrior needs rest…even if that warrior is the King of Kings.
Finally, Jesus needed to pray because He needed to stay focused on His Father’s strategy. Everywhere Jesus went and everything He said was carefully designed by God. His mission was three years long, and He needed to make sure every day…every moment counted. I personally sense that even the seemingly spontaneous moments in Jesus ministry were a part of the plan.
After Jesus prayed on the mountaintop, He returned to find His disciples fighting some strong waves on the sea. So He walked out to them…on the water! Would Jesus have had the strength to take His stroll on the sea if He hadn’t prayed beforehand? Maybe…
But if Jesus needed to pray, for these and many other reasons, who are we to say we don’t?
Dear God, help me make prayer a priority. In Jesus’ name, Amen.