“In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.”
“The day of shared faith began early, with communal worship in which they sang hymns, read the scriptures, and prayed aloud, often with one person taking the lead. Bonhoeffer wanted the seminarians to consider this time early in the morning as sacred, during which they could experience anew the mediation of Jesus Christ and the enlightenment of God’s Word1”
Some of the best and worst of things are done very early in the morning. The writer of Proverbs says the one who rises very early in the morning to bless his neighbor in a loud voice, it will be counted as a curse to him. (Prov. 27:14) And the Prophet Micah issues a wow to those who rise early to carry out plans of evil that they have schemed through the night. (Mic. 2:1) The Psalmist says; “O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You, In a dry and thirsty land, Where there is no water.”(Ps. 63:1)
Dietrich Bonhoeffer sought to instill in the students of his underground seminar, the value of rising early in the morning to communion with God. Perhaps few would have known better than him of the vital importance of seeking God early in the morning at a time when life could have ended at the muzzle of a German Lugar. But Bonhoeffer’s motive was more than fear. It was the Great Shepherd’s example of rising while it was yet dark to slip away into solitude and communion with the Father. It is by no mere embellished prose that the writer of Mark’s gospel stresses Jesus’ nocturnal rendezvous with God, His Father. He wants us to take note of the importance and practice that Jesus placed on being in prayer to the Father. It also reminds us that burdens of the day could not truly be shouldered without first drawing strength from the Father, even for the Son of man. Jesus’ day was almost immediately infringed upon as people caught wind that He was in their town, crowds formed almost overnight, waiting to be healed or see a miracle performed.
The necessity of rising early is established upon the normal development of each day, as in our own culture. If we do not make time to meet with God, we will not make time. There are few places where escape from life is afforded us like that of early morning. David, in Ps.63:1 said, early will I seek Thee. It is not only escape that is presumed, but the solitude that is the atmosphere of morning. The Sun’s rising signals its start of the cycle, yet morning seems to quietly resist that start. It is in the pause were we find God lingering, waiting, anxious to settle into communion with us. It is peaceful, undistracted serenity. It is the stillness of the calm before the storm. It is the stage of the Divine simplicity. Be still and know that He is God.
It is in such quiet moments that we find the majesty of God echoing through the silence and stillness of the heart that breaths for peace and strength and faith and hope. There is no knowledge of God in the currents of chaos and stress that come at us almost explosively every morning when the alarm marks it time or the factory whistle blows to usher in another day of work. But the early morning cheats those demands and holds off the rush to get about with the day. It is in these still, quiet moments that we will need to search for God, for we will never find time to know Him once the demands of schedule and disruptions of life begin to march across the plain of our day. Christ rose up early, while it was still dark, and thereby sanctified the morning as the advantageous time to set His appointment with the Father. His rising early before the light of day marked the importance and stamped the value on the exercise of uninterrupted solitude to pray and meditate upon the wonder and glory of the Sovereign Lord of the universe. It is in the corridors of fading starlight and kisses of morning’s peeking that time pauses for us to know that He is God. So we are charged; Seek Him early while He may be found.
The Rev. Ray Druckenmiller is the Pastor at Manning Community Church.