Praying with Jesus in the weeds

The parable of the weeds among the wheat could be a parable about prayer. Jesus is wheat among all us weedy humans. At the end of his days, he is lifted up on the cross and prays his final prayers among the weediest of the tares who are crucifying him. Those people, sown by the enemy, are doing their best to choke out the wheat and take over God’s field for themselves. The Lord’s prayers from the cross are the basic prayers we have to pray to endure, to end up giving off the beautiful aroma of Christ and not the ugly scent of mere morality or ambivalence.

Try them.

Face your feeling of being alone.

And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). (Mark 15:34)

The weeds of loneliness can choke out the wheat of connecting with God. That is probably enough said for most of us. Especially if you don’t feel connected to people, or you are fearfully clinging to someone right now, you may have pulled up the wheat of your faith a long time ago to get out the tares of loneliness.

We need love. We will take any facsimile. The real thing starts with connecting with God, when prayer has turned our loneliness to solitude. Ask the question, like Jesus prayed, about why you feel disconnected. Embrace the need to stay on the cross of your fears until resurrection comes. That is praying in the weeds.

Get to the place where you can forgive.

When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. (Luke 23:33-34)

The weeds of self-serving justice and retribution can choke out the wheat of forgiveness. The people of Mother Immanuel in Charleston took their opportunity to be public Christians when the spotlights turned on their tragedy a few months ago. It was beautiful morality and they smelled good. You might step up too. I hope you never have to. It is usually less in the big places and more in the small that we are likely to harbor hate – the memories of past hurts and slights, the wounds that get reopened when people do “that thing” that gets us, the transfer of our neediness on to causes that purport to be about justice but are really about us.

That’s when we are praying in the weeds. The enemy sows tares hoping you will pull up your confidence and enter the endless cycle of power-grabbing, undermining others and protecting self-interest. We need to roll down the streets praying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Does that prayer come to mind when you feel like you are getting killed? getting doored? getting dissed? getting used? If it does, that’s praying in the weeds.

Come to the end of your life, the end of each day trusting the Lord

 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. (Luke 23:46)

That prayer was the beginning of the end for the spiritual weeds sown by the master’s enemy and the beginning of forever for the wheat planted by his servants. Likewise, when we pray that prayer, it is the beginning of our day or our moment that puts to death the influence of ugly instincts that threaten to take over our spiritual field. It is a prayer that begins where we want to end: in the hands of God.

Last week we planted this prayer at the future police headquarters, right in the middle of territory that has been seeded with tares for a long time. “Into your hands,” we prayed, “we commit this police building, we commit the police, and we commit all the people who would like to bring their weediness right into this building and undermine peace.”

Lots of people had problems with the implicit demand that all of us do this. They were afraid they would be on the outs with their friends or relatives that see praying for the police as an act of criticism. Or I think some thought prayer was too wimpy a response because they cannot forgive anything that has happened in this country. Or maybe they didn’t believe much in prayer because they don’t really trust God.


But I think praying right there in the weeds made us beautiful and gave us the aroma of Christ. We didn’t just stay living with death until we smelled like it. Jesus is on the cross with the death and sin of the world on him. His suffering makes him beautiful. He is praying in the weeds. His groaning prayers are just the painful kind of prayers we need to pray in order to get to our own resurrection. In the weeds we pray for connection and reconciliation and hope and we are also lifted up. We also suffer the tares and bring connection, reconciliation and hope.

People who pray in the weeds, like Jesus prays from the cross, end up smelling like Christ. They don’t have to fight in a way that is as ugly as the world. They have a beautiful morality that people experience whenever they show up, having just come from prayer, having just realized, again, that they are one with Christ and Christ is one with them.

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