Situated at the foot of the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane was the place Jesus chose to pray the night before he was crucified. Its name means “oil press.” The image is unmistakable; olives pressed between two heavy stones, all the life squeezed from them, oozing with a smooth, fragrant emollient used for healing and for food. It was just the place to pray the kind of prayers Jesus prayed that night.
The writer of Hebrews described what happened in the garden:
Jesus “offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God.” (Hebrews 5:7).
Prayers and pleadings, with loud cries and tears. Jesus was in agony. He wanted to be spared this suffering and so he turned to the One who could save him. He brought the fullness of his humanity, the honesty of his desires, into his prayerful petition. Perhaps as the image above suggests, Jesus placed his own head between his arms as though between a vice of mill stones, embodying his anguish. “My Father! ‘If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine’” (Matthew 26:39)—you can hear him saying.
“And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God.”
God heard the heart of Jesus’ prayers, his willingness to yield his will to his father’s. And God responded—not with a benevolent gesture of swiping the cup from his hands. God’s heart opened to Jesus’ deeper prayers, his surrendered prayers that found their way out through the oil press. “Your-will-be-done-prayers.” Deep reverence.
I know a little about this kind of praying. Lately, it’s where I’ve gone to process a dream I have—a dream I’ve been pursuing. When I pray, pleas are squeezed out of me and anguish spills over as I embrace my desire while simultaneously surrendering it to God. It’s been metamorphic. The pressure has forced me to face my own willfulness and need to entrust God with my desires.
There are times in our lives when we must choose, like Jesus, to go to the Garden of Gethsemane and engage in prayer that feels as though we are in an oil press. The passion inside us is squeezed out into churning petitions as we work through our willingness to choose God’s will over our own.
Is there anything you need to process in the oil press of Gethsemane prayer?
This post is part of the InterVarsity Press Lenten Blog tour. To read the other IVP authors contributions, here are their blogs:
February 20th Rachel Stone: http://eatwithjoy.org/2012/02/20/lenten-fasting-easter-feasting/
February 27th Margot Starbuck: http://margotstarbuck.blogspot.com/2012/02/being-formed-in-grocery-checkout-line.html
March 5th Brent Bill: http://holyordinary.blogspot.com/2012/03/time-is-fulfilled-lenten-meditation.html
March 12th Logan Mehl-Laituri: http://feraltheology.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/maximilian-tebessa-lenten-abstinence/
March 19th Andrew Byers: http://abyers.wordpress.com/2012/03/19/when-salvation-hurts/
March 26th Valerie Hess: http://www.valeriehess.com/generalnews/spiritual-warfare-or-spiritual-laziness
April 2nd Beth Booram: http://peregrinejourney.blogspot.com
April 6th; Good Friday Chad Young: www.findingauthenticchristianity.com