“Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35).
This verse is from the Gospel of Mark, one of the three synoptic Gospels. The Gospel of Mark is attributed to St. Mark the Evangelist and is believed to be the first written Gospel.
“Although he was not a direct disciple of Jesus, Saint Mark is the author of one of the four Gospel accounts and played a vital role in spreading the Gospel as a missionary in the early church,” says the website for the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
The fact that Jesus went off to pray alone may seem unnecessary, said Fr. Patrick Mary Briscoe, O.P., a Dominican friar based in Washington, D.C.
After all, said Briscoe, “could He not always speak with the Father?”
Praying alone “doesn’t seem like the sort of thing, strictly speaking, that was necessary,” he said.
“There are even bigger questions, too. Many times when we pray, we’re asking that certain things come to pass in the future. Shouldn’t Jesus with His divine knowledge know what’s coming?” said Briscoe.
“And furthermore, couldn’t He just do whatever He wanted because of His divine power?”
Christ, according to Christian tradition, had a divine will and a human will — and these wills were distinct, said Briscoe.
“This is why, for example, Jesus labors in the garden of Gethsemane, knowing in His human will that His coming death would require courage and perseverance,” he said.
Prayer, said Briscoe, “is about uniting our wills to God, about embracing for our lives what God wants for us.”
He added, “Archbishop Fulton Sheen says, ‘Prayer begins by talking to God, but it ends by listening to Him. In the face of Absolute Truth, silence is the soul’s language.’”
So “we learn, in prayer, to desire with our own might the happiness and peace that God desires for us,” said Briscoe.
“But Jesus prays for another reason, too. He prays because he knows that some things would only be brought about in prayer. God, in His providence, ordains some things to come to pass only because people pray for them.”
Some things, he said, “will only come to pass because God wants us to pray for them. Each of us.”
Jesus’ act of praying also serves as a model for humanity, said Briscoe.
“Jesus is our teacher, our master. And we are called to follow Him. And He knew that, and so He left us an example of His prayer,” he said.
With Christ, the way of prayer is opened for the world, said Briscoe.
“He himself is the way who leads us to the Father,” he said. “He models how to approach the Father, how to seek Him and spend time with Him.”
“That’s prayer at its core: a loving relationship.”