“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.” Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Mark 14:34-36 NIV
Jesus’ prayer is the pinnacle of garden prayers, though he spoke it at rock-bottom, at an epic low, with a completely contrite and lowly spirit (Isaiah 57:15). For it was in the Garden of Eden where God gave Adam the freedom to choose (Genesis 2:16 – 17), and it was in the garden of Gethsemane, at the Mount of Olives, where the last Adam, Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:45), gave us the freedom to choose to turn back to God.
Still, it’s what God had in mind all along, to crush him with pain. The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin so that he’d see life come from it—life, life, and more life. And God’s plan will deeply prosper through him. Out of that terrible travail of soul, he’ll see that it’s worth it and be glad he did it. Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant, will make many “righteous ones,” as he himself carries the burden of their sins.
Isaiah 53:10 – 12 The Message
In this intense time of suffering under an immense burden, as crushed as the olives in the presses nearby, Jesus asked God to let him bypass the way set out for him (Mark 14:35), showing us that as humans, it is natural to become overwhelmed by the way of the Father: In our own strength is impossible to comprehend how his ways are possible (Isaiah 55:9; Matthew 19:26).
Die to root, sweet flower,
If so God wills, die even to the root;
Live there awhile, an uncomplaining mute,
Blank life, with darkness wrapp’d about thy head,
And fear not for the silence round thee spread.
This is no grave, though thou among the dead
Art counted, but the Hiding-place of Power.
Die to root, sweet flower.
—Anon., quoted by Louise Shelton, The Seasons of a Flower Garden, 1906
Yet Jesus blazed the path of faith into the Father’s will, the way of the Spirit, the practice of seeking and accepting God’s guidance, doing nothing on our own, despite confusion. Following Jesus in this garden, we are delivered from the dead-end practice of making our own decisions, as Eve did, under the influence of enticing appearances or deceiving informants (Genesis 3:2 – 6). Now we know the truth and the truth sets us free (John 8:32, 36).
So Jesus told those Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are really my disciples. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They replied to him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves to anybody. So how can you say, ‘You will be set free’?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, I tell all of you emphatically, that everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the household forever, but the son does remain forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!”
John 8:31 – 36 ISV
Dear gardeners, at times it is agonizing to surrender in our circumstances and step into the way of God; there is no mistaking the depth of the trial this garden scene presents. Yet Jesus became our Savior through this prayer, bearing the fruit of the Father’s intent by preparing to bear our iniquities and justify us (Isaiah 53:10 – 11).
Prayer: Dear Jesus, in all circumstances may this prayer become my own, believing that with the Father all things are possible (Matthew 19:26; Mark 14:36). Though a multitude of years passed between these two garden moments, may I be ready to pray this prayer every day, at a moment’s notice, for you are trustworthy (John 8:26). “Not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36).
The Garden in Delight blog leads you deeper into prayer this holy season: As the garden wakes up in spring to the work of overturning soil, pulling up dead plants, and digging spots for new ones, so let us put those shovels, spades, and trowels to work as metaphor and Dig into Prayer. At its simplest, prayer is our conversation with God—everything from quiet pillow talk to heaving cry—conversations that will grow more deeply intimate as we get to know and cherish His Words. Let A Lenten Dig into Prayer bring you close to Him and prepare your heart over 7 weeks for a truly special celebration of Christ’s resurrection.
The devotional essays of A Lenten Dig into Prayer were originally published in the “Garden Tools” section of God’s Word for Gardeners Bible under Prayer, ©2014 Shelley S. Cramm. See pages a-37 & a-38 to study by the Book.
©2014-2018 Shelley S. Cramm
Olive fruits dangle from an olive branch at the Huntington Library and Botanical Garden in southern California
Olive trees shelter the west side of campus at University of Arizona, Tucson
Coneflowers are my favorite example of perennial flowers that “die to root” each winter, such a contrast to their standing tall in summer’s heat
Olive topiaries greet visitors to Grace Fellowship Church in Costa Mesa, California…yes, Lord, your grace is evident in the olive tree!
Olive tree massive root flare in an Orange County, CA front yard; imagine Him falling to this ground.