“We got to pray just to make it today.”

“We got to pray just to make it today.” – MC Hammer

Let’s be honest–you don’t pray enough. I don’t pray enough. Whatever “enough” is, we are all pretty sure we aren’t doing it right. Recently, a story in the Bible and a one-liner I heard have given me some insight (and a little encouragement) into the world of prayer.

In Matthew 26, there are five stories of Jesus’ disciples seriously messing up and totally missing the point–all leading up to his arrest and crucifixion. Following the “five foibles” is a story about Jesus going off alone to pray, taking Peter, James and John with him.

You may be familiar with the scene. Jesus was overwhelmed and distraught by what was about to happen and he wanted a way out. Three times he cried out to God that he might be able to skip the whole crucifixion thing and find another way to conquer sin and death. Meanwhile, the three disciples he brought with him fell asleep instead of praying like he had asked them to. There are certainly a lot of layers to this story, but one thing I do see is that all four of these guys had the worst prayer sessions of their lives. 

Imagine the insane amount of stress and heartbreak Jesus was carrying that night. Jesus knew his sacrifice would start a revolution, setting in motion the establishment of God’s eternal kingdom–and none of that made the moment any easier. All Jesus could manage was a prayer of complete vulnerability before God–finishing with the phrase, “I want your will to be done, not mine.” As for Peter, James and John, the best they could manage was to show up. There is no doubt they loved Jesus and wanted to help him. They followed Jesus into that clearing to pray, but instead they fell asleep.

This is as real as it gets, folks. 

You and I have never felt the actual weight of the world on our shoulders the way Jesus did that night. Even so, we often feel stress and heartbreak in life to the point that we have trouble knowing how and what to pray. We can also be so confused and overwhelmed by the swirl of realities around us that just showing up is the best we have to offer. My point is that “enough” may be less about the time we put in or our profound eloquence. Instead, enough may be more about our vulnerability before God or simply showing up–even with nothing to bring to the table. 

There’s also the one-liner I heard on a podcast a couple days ago. I can’t remember the topic of that episode, but I had to back it up and listen again to the part when one of the hosts offered this definition of prayer: Prayer is expressed helplessness. What if the great irony of prayer is that when you feel like a terrible pray-er you might actually be in the best possible place to seek out and hear from God.

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