Praying to the Lord who Refuses to be Domesticated: A Reflection on Mark 3:20-35.

Jesus is portrayed in the Gospels as almost always in conflict with Jewish religious leaders. Rarely is he depicted as at odds with his family, of which the Gospel reading (Mark 3:20-35) is a case in point. At the outset of the reading, Mark tells us that Jesus’ family—thinking that he was out of his mind and that he had to be secured from the pressing crowd—tried to restrain (kratesai) him (v. 21). As an aside, the terms associated with control and power over others such as autocrat, democrat, and bureaucrat are derived from the root of the Greek verb krateo: KRAT. Since its noun form “kratos” means dominating force or power, Mark is telling us that Jesus’ family somehow coerced him to get out of the pressing crowd. But instead of submitting to their coercion, Jesus ignored them and engaged in discourse with the scribes who also attempted to take control over him by trying to discredit his acts of expelling evil spirits. Towards the end of the Gospel reading, Mark tells us that the mother and siblings of Jesus are standing outside in search of him (v. 30). Instead of heeding their summons, Jesus—within the hearing of his family—loudly declares: “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother” (v. 35).

The Lord Jesus refuses to be restrained even by his very family whose intention may not necessarily be to restrict his preaching on the Kingdom but possibly to protect him from his opponents and the pushy crowd. What has the Lord’s refusal to be domesticated or tamed to do with our spirituality or our day to day life? Maybe, it has something to do with the fact that the Lord is beyond our understanding and control.

Maybe, it has something to do with the fact that the Lord is beyond our understanding and control.Click To Tweet

Which brings me to one of our, perhaps subconscious attempts at domesticating or putting God under our beck and call. This is concerning our petitionary prayers. Our prayers are almost always asking or pleading God for some favors such as healing of a serious illness, success in an exam, safe travel, and many others. More often than not, our prayers end up either unanswered or answered in far different ways than what we have asked for. My brother recently died of cancer. His passing away was not unexpected since his cancer had already been in an advanced state when it was diagnosed. Heavens were stormed with prayers… to no avail. Did our prayers fall on deaf ears? Different was my case years ago. I had a very serious kidney and lung infections that made me unconscious wherein I was only sustained by machines in the intensive care for almost two months. I was told that heavens were stormed with prayers, and I escaped the claws of death. Did God hear the prayers for me, but overheard the prayers for my brother? If that were the case, he must be an unjust God. Merit-wise my brother deserved more a new lease on life than I do because he was more prayerful and lived a more righteous life. Besides he had two young children. On the other hand, I had no child and was not as prayerful and upright as I supposed or appeared to be. It seems that a famous Tagalog saying: “Ang masamang damo ay matagal mamatay” (A bad grass lives longer) holds some water. Is God then really unjust?

Our prayers of petition can be good if seen in the light of the fact that God is beyond our understanding and control, that in no way can we persuade the Lord to grant our wishes. Presented as acts of surrender to the mercy of God without expecting something from him, our petitions can be an expression of our deep longing for the Lord whose thoughts are not our thoughts and whose ways are not our ways (cf. Isa 55:8). Our petitions should more or less echo a famous prayer that goes: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” Living out the profound meaning of this prayer in our day-to-day life is one of the ways of doing the will of God. Hopefully, we shall be counted as among the members of the Lord’s family.

Read more
Connect to the community in The Members Hub

What do you think about the reflection? Or what is your message about Mark 3:20-35?


Solemnly professed religious and ordained priest of the Order of Saint Augustine