In The Garden

Whenever we leave town for a few days it seems that there is always so many things to be done in order to get ready to go. Arrangements have to be made to have someone come and take care of the animals. Errands have to be run, bills paid, laundry finished, the house cleaned, and clothes packed. It’s no wonder that we are often tired before we ever start!

But, most things in life that are worthwhile, usually take quite a bit of effort. We are attending a graduation and that is another good example of something that represents a lot of time and effort. It is tempting along the way to drop out. It is much more difficult to finish. That is why we always celebrate milestones that demonstrate completion of something. The same is true of anniversaries. They represent a mile marker for the important events in our lives.

Preparation is important in just about everything you can think of in life. Having a successful dinner party requires much planning and effort. Building a house, building a marriage, or building a business only succeed when there is preparation to help insure that they will turn out the way one anticipated.

Our spiritual journey is no different. A close relationship with God and with our fellow man only happens when we take time to prepare our hearts and minds. Before I begin my prayers, I like to take the time to sit quietly and empty my mind of the jumble of thoughts that inevitably gathers in my mind. It is difficult to talk to God or listen to God when my “to do” list keeps popping into the conversation.

Another thing that distracts my time with God is my own stuff. My insecurities, upset emotions, or feelings of inadequacy that accumulate in the process of living barge into my conversation with God also.

Taking time to be quiet and empty out my bag of paraphernalia is quite helpful in having a meaningful conversation with the Spirit. I like to begin by visualizing the Garden of Gethsemane where Christ actually took on the guilt and pain of the world. In my mind, I see Christ kneeling there agonizing over the weight of the sins He was about to take on. It is in seeing this that I realize He took on all of my stuff right then and there. So whatever I find myself packing around at the moment is what I visualize leaving in Gethsemane with Christ.

I then follow Him to the cross where He died for every mistake or ill feeling that I might ever have had or will have and I realize that it died with Him. In the Jewish tradition, a lamb that represented the Messiah was burned on an altar. In essence, when Christ died, my sins were symbolically burned on the altar. He paid the penalty for my sins.

The resurrection represents the power of the living Christ. He laid down His life and He took it back up again. Without the resurrection I would have my sins paid for but no power to live my life anew. At the empty tomb I picture being clothed with the robe of light, righteousness, and purity that Christ purchased for me with His blood. This is where I “put on” the armor that Paul talks about in Ephesians 6. Now I am dressed and armed as a light worker in this world.

This is great mental, emotional, and spiritual preparation for beginning a conversation with God. It is from this mental perspective of being forgiven, cleansed, and empowered that I can ask for the Spirit to fill my life and teach me what I need to know.

Have you ever rushed out the door on a trip unprepared? It is an exercise in frustration as you discover one thing after another that you’ve left behind. When we rush into prayer with no preparation and packing all of our stuff with us, it can be an exercise in frustration. In fact, we might even mistake our lack of thoughtfulness and confusion as God’s deafness. We wonder why we don’t hear more and understand more.

With just a little more preparation and remembering what God has already done for us—considering what great promises are available to us—we can approach God prepared to understand how much we are loved and begin to get a better understanding of what it is we are here on earth to do.

Considering how important our relationship to God is, maybe we should put a little more planning and preparation into our conversations with God. It is wonderful to know that we can cry out and we will be heard, but prayer is not just a 911 call it is where we receive our “marching orders” for the day—it is the breath of our relationship to God.