“Pray without ceasing,” the Apostle Paul taught us (1 Thess. 5:17). He also said, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25). John Wesley referred to this as “continuing instant in prayer.” Probably you’re more familiar with the terminology of “practicing God’s presence.”

Mark in his Gospel seeks to draw us into this quality of intimacy with God by showing us our opportunity to live with an immediacy of responsiveness to Jesus. Forty-two times he uses the Greek word “euthys,” which we translate as “immediately” or “at once.” Mark is not pressuring us to hurry — he’s inviting us live in the moment with Jesus, just as Jesus lives attuned to the Father and the Spirit. (See “Jesus’ Solitude and Silence” for my Bible study on being unhurried with Jesus in the Gospel of Mark.)

To respond immediately to the presence of Jesus we have to get beyond conscious prayer and into unconscious bodily prayer by developing attitudes and habits that help us to live in reliance upon the indwelling Holy Spirit. We need to be in a bodily posture of attentiveness to God’s presence, voice, and activity before a trial or opportunity comes along. If we’re not already praising him and trusting him as we enter into situations then we’re not likely to notice his activity around us or to hear his voice if he speaks.

So we need to ask ourselves, “What is my body prepared to do? How have I been formed spiritually and physically?” There is a battle between sin and righteousness for our bodily members and it is only through Christ that we can overcome (Rom. 7:21-25). We need to train ourselves to grow in godliness (1 Tim. 4:7), which is to become the kind of persons who are prepared mentally and physically to immediately choose Jesus rather than sinful temptations.

These verses (NASB) from Mark’s Gospel call us into the immediacy of following Jesus in the moment:

Jesus Responded to the Holy Spirit Immediately

“Immediately coming up out of the water, [Jesus] saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him.” (Mark 1:10)

“Immediately the Spirit impelled [Jesus] to go out into the wilderness.” (Mark 1:12)

“Immediately on the Sabbath [Jesus] entered the synagogue and began to teach.” (Mark 1:21)

“Immediately Jesus, aware in His spirit…” (Mark 2:8)

“After hearing about Jesus, she came up in the crowd behind Him and touched His cloak. For she thought, ‘If I just touch His garments, I will get well.’ Immediately the flow of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. Immediately Jesus, perceiving in Himself that power proceeding from Him had gone forth, turned around in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched My garments?’” (Mark 5:27-30)

“Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side [of the lake], while He himself was sending the crowd away. After bidding them farewell, He left for the mountain to pray.” (Mark 6:45-46)

“But when [Jesus’ disciples] saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed that it was a ghost, and cried out; for they all saw Him and were terrified. Immediately [Jesus] spoke with them and said to them, ‘Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid.’” (Mark 6:49-50)

Examples of People Responding to Jesus Immediately

“Immediately [Simon and Andrew] left their nets and followed [Jesus].” (Mark 1:18)

“Immediately [Jesus] called [James and John]; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went away to follow Him.” (Mark 1:20)

“When [Jesus] got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him… Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him.” (Mark 5:2, 6)

“When [Jesus and His disciples] got out of the boat, immediately the people recognized Him, and ran about that whole country and began to carry here and there on their pallets those who were sick, to the place they heard He was.” (Mark 6:54-55)

“[Jesus] entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden. But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet… She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter.” (Mark 7:24-26)

“Immediately, when the entire crowd saw [Jesus], they were amazed and began running up to greet Him.” (Mark 9:15)

“Jesus said to [the father of the boy having seizures], ‘“If You can?”’ All things are possible to him who believes.’ Immediately the boy’s father cried out… ‘I do believe; help my unbelief.’ …Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up.” (Mark 9:23-24, 27)

“[A blind beggar named Bartimaeus heard that Jesus was walking by and he] began to cry out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Many were sternly telling him to be quiet, but he kept crying out all the more… Jesus said, ‘What do you want Me to do for you?’ And the blind man said to Him, ‘Rabboni, I want to regain my sight!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him on the road.” (Mark 10:47-48, 51-52)

Examples of People Indulging Sinful Impulses Immediately

“The Pharisees went out and immediately began conspiring with the Herodians against [Jesus], as to how they might destroy Him.” (Mark 3:6)

“Immediately the daughter of Herodias came in a hurry to the king and [said], ‘I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” (Mark 6:25)

“Immediately while [Jesus] was still speaking, Judas… came up accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs [to betray Jesus]…” (Mark 14:43)

“Early in the morning the chief priests with the elders and scribes and then whole Council, immediately held a consultation; and binding Jesus, they led Him away and delivered Him to Pilate.” (Mark 15:1)