This strange little roundabout is a few minutes from my house. The first time I walked across it, taking my then-five-year-old daughter to school, she declared:
“Oh, I know this place from my Bible! It’s the Garden of Gethsemane.”
It was a strange thing for her to say. Gethsemane in her storybook Bible looks far more appealing than this. For one thing there are olives.
The other morning, I got up early and stumbled bleary-eyed into the kitchen, only to discover that I had run out of coffee. My empty mug was hardly comparable to Christ’s cup of suffering! But still, I felt miffed and in need of caffeine. I took my quiet time out onto the street, heading to the shop, praying as I went.
I rarely walk this way these days, since my daughter has changed schools. So I found myself wandering through this odd little patch of grass for the first time in months, and stopped for a moment to ponder. I imagined myself in that storybook scene. As one of the disciples, lying against a rock, with a row of Zs hovering above my head.
I reflected on how sleepy and distracted I was, and how my dozy mind struggled to focus on the subjects of my prayers. I also reflected on how that’s usually the case when I come to pray, even when fully-caffeinated.
I’ve always found prayer difficult, and readily identify with the disciples who struggled to keep watch for an hour. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. And while this particular lump of flesh has worked very hard at it, and got better over the years, I’m jealous of those for whom prayer seems to be the most natural thing in the world.
As I stood there for a couple of minutes, I asked myself,
“If Jesus were standing here on this strange pear-shaped roundabout, what would he be praying for this community? What would he be asking his father on behalf of those who live in the surrounding houses, or attend the nearby school?”
In Gethsemane, Jesus was not merely praying for the world, but preparing to lay down his life for it. So, my drowsy mind drifted from prayer to practicalities.
“What would it look like not just to pray for my community as Christ would, but to serve it like he would?”
Those simple questions were like a caffeine shot to my prayers, and as I continued my walk, I imagined how different the streets would be if the Kingdom of God were to break in. How much more hopeful and safe and kind they would become.
It was a moving thought-experiment, picturing Jesus walking the streets with me, pointing out the signs of brokenness, and telling me what it could look like if he made them whole.
It put flesh on the bones of the prayer Jesus taught his disciples:
“Your Kingdom come,
Your will be done,
On earth as in heaven.”
And in remembering that prayer, I also remembered the request that prompted it:
“Lord, teach us to pray”(Luke 11.1)
I have so much to learn about how to intercede for those around me, and how to serve them better, as an ambassador of Christ. Having been a Christian for many years, I often think that I should be better at prayer than I am. It feels embarrassing to admit that I still need to ask for help. But I do. And I take comfort from the fact that whenever I suck up my pride and ask God to teach me, He does. He doesn’t rebuke me, or tell me that’s too basic. He doesn’t sigh, and complain “how many times…?”
Standing on that roundabout and uttering my request for help, I imagined I could see Him smile, and reply:
“I’ve been wondering how long it would take you to ask. It would be my pleasure.”
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