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. And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons. – Mark 1:35-39
In 2013 I took a three month sabbatical. It was a great and refreshing experience for me. One of most significant things I learned was that the world could keep spinning, the church could continue to function and life could go on without me. This was more than just a theoretical truth being validated; it was an emotional realization, and an enlightening experience. That is true because, although God uses people and other means to do his work and work out his will in the world, God is still over all. Jesus himself said that not even a sparrow falls to the ground apart from his will or knowledge.
Jesus knows that the world can go on without him for a time – especially because he is not simply wasting his time, nor is he merely resting up from the previous day’s busy ministry load. Jesus is taking time to pray, communing with his Heavenly Father. In doing so, he is seeking the Father’s help in the mission and work to which he had been sent. He is also expressing faith in the Father to work in and through many people to accomplish his will.
Jesus is aware that he is the essential means by which the Father is fulfilling his eternal will for the salvation of all people. He knows no one else is able to do what he will ultimately be called on to do. But he knows also that the work of God is accomplished not only through direct action, but even more in dedicated faith and trust in God.
God’s work is done through people who put their faith and trust in God, and rely on him in every situation at all times. Sometimes God allows us to be actively and directly involved in his work on earth. More often we see him working through others. There will come a time when Jesus does the work of God totally alone. But for these moments he is praying, recognizing that God is at work in and through him, as well as in and through others.