The mountain. What does this mountain signify? If we read the Gospel, we find various meanings. The mountain is, above all, the place where Jesus prayed, the place where he was alone with the Father. The mountain is his word.

To go to the mountain of Jesus means, then, to wander on the majestic mountain of his words.

Joseph Ratzinger, Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year, ed. Irene Grassl, trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992), page 316.

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My notes:  Where is your mountain? The place you go to to get away from the noise and business of the world and be alone with God.
How often do you go there? Once in a while, rarely, or on a regular basis?

I live in the Archdiocese of Detroit, there are no mountains anywhere near me. I suspect this is true for most people. So where shall we go?
To pray in an Adoration Chapel or Church, before the Most Blessed Sacrament is the highest mountain we could hope to climb. Praying before the Real Presence of Jesus is to be present with Him, in a way that is not possible anywhere else.

On days when this is not possible, some other place or time would be fine to encounter Jesus. I prefer the early morning, 5:30 am. At that time the house is quiet and still, as is the neighborhood and even the city. Find your place, your time and pray to Jesus on your mountain.

My picture above is from the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, North Carolina.

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You are my God; have mercy on me, O Lord,
for to you do I cry all the day. (Psalm 86:2-3)

1. No greater gift could God have given to men than in making His Word, by which He created all things, their Head, and joining them to Him as His members: that the Son of God might become also the Son of man, one God with the Father, one Man with men; so that when we speak to God in prayer for mercy, we do not separate the Son from Him; and when the Body of the Son prays, it separates not its Head from itself: and it is one Saviour of His Body, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who both prays for us, and prays in us, and is prayed to by us.

St. Augustine of Hippo, “Expositions on the Book of Psalms,” in Saint Augustin: Expositions on the Book of Psalms, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 8, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1888), pages 409–410.

My Notes: Our prayer to the Father for mercy is the one same prayer of Jesus to the Father for the same mercy. Jesus prays with us, we have the same prayer: mercy.

And it should be noted that Christ is said to have had three refuges; for sometimes He fled to a mountain, as said here; and it is written in John 8:1: “And Jesus went unto mount Olivet.” Sometimes He fled to a boat; “When the multitudes pressed upon him … going into one of the ships that was Simon’s … sitting he taught” (Lk. 5). And thirdly, sometimes He fled into the desert; “Come apart into a desert place” (Mk. 6:31).

St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Gospel of St. Matthew, trans. Paul M. Kimball (Dolorosa Press, 2012), page 139.

(My comments below)

In celebrating Lent, we try to imitate what Jesus did by his going out into the desert for 40 days of fasting and praying. As disciples of Jesus we also need to have a refuge (or two or three) where we can get away from the world and get closer to our God.  For example, in the summer I have a hammock in a shady spot of my backyard, where I go to read the Bible or theology books.  A more practical, your round suggestion is to visit a church. Most churches are open evenings, are quiet and are perfect places to pray. Jesus himself suggests for us to go into his house and pray: “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’” (Matt 21:13).

Blessed are you, Lord God, who brings forth bread from the earth.

Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.

For the last few years, I have made it a habit to pray before meals, all my meals, even just a snack. Typically I use the standard prayer “Bless us O Lord, and these thy gifts…”. I do also pray “free from” or from the heart also.  Just this week I found 2 new prayers to add. I found these while reading the book “Jesus and the Jewish roots of the Eucharist”.  Both prayers come from the Mishnah, which is a extensive collection of the oral traditions of Jewish rabbis who lived around the time of Jesus (50 BC to 200 AD). Both are simple, and easy to memorize, but most important of all, Jesus himself would have said these two prayers before he ate and drank.

Gethsem’ane is a Aramaic word that means “oil press”.  While only in John’s account of the Gospel is this place called a “garden”, all four accounts describe Jesus and his disciples going there to pray.  These four accounts give different details, but they all point to a special importance of prayer, with various aspects to that prayer. First is where they pray, in a quiet, isolated location, free from distractions. Luke details for us “as was his custom”, showing that Gethsem’ane was a regular place for Jesus to pray. Second, they are gathered together, praying as a small community of about a dozen people. Third and last, Jesus shows us his humility by praying both on his knees and laying on the ground “on his face”.  These four passages reveal to us a deep insight into the prayer life of Jesus and how he taught his disciples to pray. They also show how Jesus is teaching us today how to pray.

Matthew 26:36 and 39
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsem’ane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go yonder and pray.”
And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed,…

(Mark 14:32-35)
And they went to a place which was called Gethsem’ane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I pray.” And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled.  And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch.”  And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.

Luke 22:39-41
And he came out, and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him.  And when he came to the place he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”  And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed,

John 18:1-2
When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples across the Kidron valley, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered.  Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place; for Jesus often met there with his disciples.

The primary purpose for Jesus praying was for him to be in contact/communication with the Father.  St. Mark would not need to tell us this with the details he uses if there was not something special that the Holy Spirit wanted us to know.  In all of what Jesus does he is an example for us, teaching us. In this verse, Jesus is teaching us about prayer. There are two key elements in this verse: 1) very early before dawn, 2) off to a deserted place.  By rising very early before dawn, Jesus shows us that our priority needs to be prayer. Next, Jesus demonstrates by his going off to a deserted place, the importance of praying without distractions or interruptions, and with focus and concentration.

Are you looking for help to improve your prayer life? Follow the example of Jesus and do two things: make prayer a priority, and pray in solitude so you can focus.

And going on a little farther he fell on his face and prayed,
“My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me,
nevertheless, not as I will but as thou will.” Matthew (26:39)

Many passages of the Gospel show Jesus at prayer, in many different locations, this is the only passage that has Jesus praying prostrate. Many passages have other people coming to Jesus and falling prostrate before Him.  The prayer of Jesus at Gethsemane is perhaps one of the most important that Jesus prays (it is the start of The Passion), and the posture of Jesus praying face down to the ground teaches us something special. It shows what so many people of the Old Testament did when praying for/about something very important, they prayed prostrate, with their face to the ground.