In the beginning, God created the world. It was His masterpiece- His very good masterpiece. Of course, we know that sin would enter the world, perverting the perfect world God had created. But that’s the part of the story where we usually get stuck. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” We know all too well our sin, and all too well the broken world in which we live. And that’s important. We must bridge that gap to gain understanding of our need for salvation. But there’s much to be learned if we go a little further back- to the Garden. To God’s ideal plan for creation. There we can see the way God has called us to live in an ideal world without sin. The garden is our model for living a life of intentionality in pursuing Christ.
In the garden, God walked hand in hand with man. His physical presence was able to coexist with us, not yet mortals- still unmarked by sin or blemish. Later in the Old Testament, God would reveal his fullness to Moses, given that Moses did not look at His face. God knew that the fullness of His glory would strike Moses dead, but in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were able to be with God. They walked with Him, and they talked with Him. They were in perfect community with God. After the fall of man, we could no longer walk hand in hand with God, and chat with Him as we would a close friend. Now, in order to have community with God we must communicate through prayer.
It is easy for prayer feel like second best. We tend to think standing face-to-face with God would be a much more rewarding and fulfilling experience, especially when we struggle to recognize God’s voice speaking back to us. The yearning to meet God face-to-face isn’t a bad one; it’s a holy desire that we know will be fulfilled because of the standard set in the Garden of Eden.
Several centuries after humanity’s fall into sin, there was another Garden- the Garden of Gethsemane. It was there that Jesus went on the night He would be betrayed by one of the men in his inner circle and turned over to Roman authorities to be crucified on a criminal’s cross, where He would bear the sins of humanity. On the night before all of this occurred, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed.
Jesus lived a life without sin. He also was God made human. If anyone on earth could withstand the tangible presence of God, it was Jesus. But in the Garden of Gethsemane, he prayed. The presence of God didn’t appear in physical form, but Jesus entered communication with God in the very same way we do now. If prayer were second best, I have no doubt that God would have appeared before his son that night to answer his pleas. His failure to manifest on Earth gives me faith that God sees prayer as just as valuable as communicating with us face to face.
With that in mind, it’s important that our prayer life is cultivated with the same virtues as our real-life relationships. If we look at it the way that Jesus prayed, we can see that transparency and hunger are vital to building intentional and fruitful prayer lives. Jesus knew what was coming when he prayed at Gethsemane. In verse 39, and again in verse 42, we see a side of Jesus that is very human. Scared of what’s to come, he cries out to God and asks Him to spare his life. In that moment we see Jesus being vulnerable and honest before God. He doesn’t try to have the strength for what’s to come. He plainly asks his Father to take away his pain, and if that cannot be done, then he asks for his will to be aligned with God’s.
It can be easy to hide our weaknesses and failures from God. So often we feel like we have to approach Him with all our flaws neatly tucked away so that we don’t offend Him or scare Him with our mess. But God never intended for us to hide ourselves out of shame. In Genesis 3:10, Adam admits that he hid from God out of shame at his nakedness. In Genesis 3:21, God creates clothes for Adam and Eve, not as an affirmation of Adam’s shame at his nudity, but as a provision for Adam’s needs. When Adam admitted his fear to God, God provided a remedy for that fear. Rather than encouraging Adam to hide, God gave him the covering of clothes that granted freedom in the face of his shame. Likewise, when we pour our most vulnerable selves out to God, He dignifies us rather than leaving us in our brokenness.
The overflow of the dignity given to us by God in spite of our brokenness is hunger. We become desperate for more of Him in our life. Like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, we begin to beg for our will to align with God’s. In the Garden, Jesus prayed for hours. He prayed for so long that his disciples fell asleep. Yet all he did was awaken them, ask them to join him, and pray again- that same prayer repeated over and over again. “Not as I will, but as You will.” We see Jesus’s hunger for prayer all throughout the New Testament. In Matthew 14:23, Jesus retreats to a mountain to pray after teaching crowds, and in Mark 1:35 Jesus rises before dawn to retreat to a place alone and pray. This hunger for prayer is unleashed within us by the experience of God’s grace that gives us the power and courage to pursue prayer with intention.
At the root of it all lies God’s grace. Once we have decided to pursue intentionality and are humble and vulnerable in our prayers, God’s love and mercy lavished upon us does the work of setting our hearts on a path to Him. So all we have to do is start.
God, I ask that You would unleash a hunger and passion for prayer within my life. Only You can light the fire that cannot be put out. I come before You knowing that I have nothing to give, but everything to receive from You. I pray that You would begin to align my heart with Your will, that my desires would look like the desires of heaven. I pray that the mercies You have already poured into my life would inspire confidence, not in my abilities but in Your provision through my weakness. Amen.
Author | Sarah Savoie