One thing I am doing with our garden is making it an inviting and natural place to pray. My grandsons and I pray out there, sometimes by the fire bush, sometimes sitting on the walk, and sometimes at the table. The air rustles with the noises of the garden surroundings. Usually the boys ask me to pray for something. But sometimes my heart just wells up in thanksgiving, and amid what we are doing, I grin and say, “Hey guys, wanna pray?” Occasionally, I get an honest, “no grandpa, we’re siftin’.” But usually, prayer just becomes what we do. I consider that a great blessing.
It’s dark tonight. The garden is lit, so I often work after the sun goes down. Sometimes I do work in the dim light, other times I stroll through the garden, dreaming and planning. I search each nook and cranny, finding the glory of God, as our story together unfolds in this special place. I think this is my second favorite time spent in the garden — dreaming and planning. The first and most special time is just “being”, sharing in the quiet beauty of the garden, watching what God does best in our world. He knits things together in engaging ways that astound us all. It’s a wonder to behold, and we can see it in the garden of our lives, if we open our eyes.
Usually, at least a few times a night, I bother my wife, and goad her with a chuckle, encouraging her out into the garden to dream with me. She doesn’t always like to dream with mosquitos around, but still, she comes outside. I love that woman. Tonight, something special happened, two became one, right here in the garden. Instead of me taking her into the garden, she grabbed ME and took ME into the garden. She said, “Hey, let’s go out, take my hand. We have something to share.” Hmm, what could this be? In any case, both of us walking in the garden together with God is a blessing I hold dear.
I followed her out onto the brick sidewalk, she led me quietly. The breeze was flowing, as it often does here in Florida, and I was like, “This is cool, you’re dragging ME out here this time!” We walked through our little fountain plaza and around this bend in the sidewalk — she took me to the cross.
I made a cross I made from pallet wood. Light slowly pulsates from behind the cross as it hangs on the fence under the arbor. The arbor is home to our Dutchman’s Pipevine. This beautiful vine hosts swallowtail butterflies and gets its name from the flowers that bloom in huge scarlet and mottled white. They are shaped like a Dutchman’s pipe. The flowers nestle among heart-shaped green leaves that fill the vine. To me, they symbolize the light of Christ, shining through the blood of our Lord and Savior. Kind of like what the world saw as blood dripped down his face. They could see the light of his heart in that moment, still shining through, because even in this time of pain, his heart shone for us, those he cares for and loves.
My wife took my hand, smiled, and said, “We need to do this more often.” Then she kneeled, and I followed. We knelt on the stones in front of the cross. I will soon plant a patch of grass right at the foot of the cross. That grass, when I am done, will invite people to kneel and pray. We don’t pray “to” the cross, but it reminds us of a sacrifice Jesus made out of love for s. When we talk with God, when we pray, whether it is a soft whisper, a crying out, or anything in between, I know one thing, Jesus is there with us in the conversation.
My wife and I pray together, but not as often as I would like. That’s why this moment stood out and why I felt this nudge from God to be where he wants us in the garden of our lives — praying together. It’s like sitting at the table with Jesus. Yet, some of my favorite times are kneeling at his feet before the cross. I am thankful he is with us in these moments, all of us together in the garden.
So, my wife took my hand as we knelt—and we prayed. We prayed, and we prayed. While the dark was surrounding us, we sat there in the quiet breeze, and in a light that was falling from the cross. We both held hands with Jesus, and we prayed.
It is interesting to me that Jesus himself one night left the upper room with his disciples, the apostles. He went into the garden of Gethsemane to pray. He had been there so many times visiting this special place in the garden. Jesus got face down on the ground, and he faced HIS cross. He knew he would it soon. We don’t think about that when we pray, do we? Jesus has been where we are. Jesus has been through more than we can imagine going through. And he knows what we are going through. Jesus himself has cried out to the Father as he knelt before the cross that loomed in his near, yet distant, future.
Jesus is with us in the garden of our lives. When we join hands with him in prayer, we join also with the hands of God, surrounded by the Spirit, as we all sit together and pray. We need God, and we need each other. Pray, and pray, and pray — and pray.
Jesus faced his cross that night in the garden. He knew he would carry it soon. We face ours in the garden of our lives every day. His prayer ends with, “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” That is always the destination of prayer, not our will, but God’s will be done. I know this, I want his will more than anything in my life. In all my prayers, I pray for God’s pure and perfect will to shape and lead me from darkness to light. I still get in the way sometimes, I know that. But I always focus on his will as I face my cross.
I find this next part of Luke’s account amazing and comforting. We are told, “And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” ~~ Luke 22:43-44. It is comforting for me to know that God is with me as I face cross. No matter the outcome, he is with me. That’s amazing in my mind.
So now, I am dreaming and planning again as I stroll from place to place in the garden. Tonight, I am dreaming of creating a natural place to pray. I will put that patch of soft kneeling grass right there in front of the arbor, with the leaves shaped like hearts that keep the vine alive , with what I see as white light shining through the crimson blood of the flowers. I want to surround this place at the foot of the cross with the heart of Jesus. You know, any time is a good time to pray, join me:
“Lord, join our hearts with yours in the garden of our lives as we come to you in prayer. We listen for your whisper as we kneel or cry out at the foot of the cross. Give us the strength of the angels in heaven as we seek God’s will in the garden . In Jesus’ name, amen.”