Jesus’ first day of ministry in Capernaum is almost over. People have heard of his fame. They come to him in great numbers and they seek miraculous favours from him. But in the midst of hectic activity Jesus finds time to withdraw, to be with his Father. It is the Father who spoke to him at baptism: “You are my beloved Son”.
It is at this time that Simon Peter and others searched for him. They felt that Jesus should capitalise on the enthusiasm of the crowd aroused by his miracles. Such an attitude, however, does not befit the disciples of Jesus. Mark hints that their action amounted to an attempt to lead Jesus away from his true mission (Cf. Mk 8: 32). For Jesus, however, prayer is a moment of encounter with the Father and His will. It is a moment of discernment of God’s plan, and of his own determination to surrender himself to it. Jesus is not swayed by popular demands as the disciples are. Jesus’ aim was not popular acclaim, but to “proclaim the kingdom” (Mk 1: 39). Mark 1: 39 is a summary description of how Jesus was carrying out the purpose mentioned in Mark 1: 38. Jesus is absolutely clear about his goal, namely, the proclamation of the kingdom and he says: “That is why I came out” from my Father. From his communion with the Father in prayer, Jesus draws strength and courage to dedicate himself to the will of the Father.
In Mark’s gospel Jesus is reported to be in prayer (Mk 1: 35; 6: 46; 14: 32ff) in moments of tension arising out of false messianic hopes and in moments when he discerns his Father’s will. Both in Mark 1: 35 and 6: 46 it is after certain miracles that Jesus is said to be withdrawing for prayer. His miracles must have occasioned certain expectations in the people of Jesus becoming their political Messiah.
There was a danger of his being considered a miracle worker. His popularity was on the increase. But Jesus does not want to be side-tracked by popular pressure or become a victim of the vested interests of his close associates.
Even those who are supposed to be close to us can have ulterior motives in persuading us to choose a particular course of action.
By prayer, like Jesus, we too discern God’s will. It is during times of silence and prayer that we will allow ourselves to be confronted by God’s will. In prayer we can gain inner strength against the temptations of cheap popularity at the cost of God’s plan. Prayer will strengthen us to submit ourselves to God’s will for his people. Popular support alone is no justification for our actions. To choose to do only those activities and projects which attract popular approval is dangerous. To get bogged down in places and activities is to lose sight of God’s project. Like Jesus we need to discern God’s will in prayer.