“. . . take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
As I consider Jesus’ version of honest, I’m challenged as to how honest I’ve really been with God. What if I made Jesus’ honest prayer my honest prayer?
It’s a powerful thought to consider—that Jesus’ honest Take This Cup prayer can be the model for our own prayerful exchanges with our Father.
Take This Cup prayer is “what I want” prayer. A plea to remove the pains and sacrifices we face. This grief. This rejection. This misunderstanding. This injustice. This addiction. This debt. This loneliness. This not-enoughness. This shame.
Take This Cup prayer also might mean, “Give me what I don’t have in my life that I want.” Jesus prayed “take this cup” as in “remove it”—and he also prayed, “but if that isn’t possible, give me what I need to drink it.” Take this singleness when I want to be married, or give me joy in my singleness. Take this dead-end job when I want more meaningful employment, or give me peace in this current role. Take this impasse with my teen when I want a closer relationship, or give me unconditional love for my child.
We pause and ponder how we could follow Jesus’ example and pray our own version of “Take this cup.” But how does our pain compare to what Jesus endured?
It doesn’t, of course. But our pain is still our pain. Jesus prayed his prayer coin of honest and abandon, embracing the intimacy he possessed with the Father and modeling the intimacy we too can possess. If he died to provide such a relationship, how can we not enter in ourselves?
In fact, by not praying our own version of “take this cup,” we might actually be doubting God. As if he isn’t able. As if he isn’t God enough to act in the matters that concern us.
Let’s Be Honest
Wait, how honest are we talking? Jesus prayed an honestly human request in an honestly human expression. Jesus experienced the pain. That honest?
Since I began writing this manuscript—my neck has flamed with pain. I imagine the source: too many granted “uppies” for my two-year-old grandson, Dominic; helping my brother move furniture into his new home; lugging my luggage across London a speaking engagement.
I sit to write with a bowed heart, and my neck screams objections.
Honestly, God, take this cup of pain. This cup of interference. This cup of what I don’t want.
I consider going all-out honest in my prayer coin efforts, as Max Lucado directs: “Pray your pain out. Pound the table. March up and down the lawn. . . . Angry at God? Disappointed with his strategy? Ticked off at his choices? Let him know it.”
Can he—God—handle my pounding prayers? I want to think he can. I retrace Jesus’s honest and begin to believe that, surely, God can. Because he heard and responded to the puckered prayers of his Son.
In my best being, I know that something is missed when I avoid honesty. Honest can be our teacher, if we allow it to do its work.
Staying honest, I ask God to remove the pain yet again. Take this cup! And then comes a realization, right there in the honest. Something I hadn’t seen, hadn’t felt. Perhaps something I haven’t wanted to see or feel. Take this pain that signals my need.
Need. I need you, God. I can’t do this on my own. Help. Me.
What if you sensed the pain not as pain but as my presence with you in the writing? What if each time you feel the pain, you are reminded that I know your need and am present to meet it?
But I don’t want you that close, God. I like being in control and believing I can do life on my own.
“Take this cup” is revealing. Honest prayer searches the dark crevices in my cranium, ejecting the truth and laying it open for dissection. For examination. So I can see what it is I really want or don’t want. So I can own it and decide.
Dare I go this honest? Before God? (And before the rest of the world reading these words in print?) Margaret Feinberg woos me with her words, “Prayer is the place where I’m invited to present the parts of myself that no one else sees to a God who already knows and loves me anyway.”
I remember Hebrews 4:13, and then read beyond it:
Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:13–16)
Jesus prayed honest before his Father because he knew he could. And then Jesus died that we might access honest prayer before our Father too.
Where Honest Takes Us
Think about it. In offering humankind free will, God opened himself to wounding and rejection as well as to love. When we went running from him in the first garden, appalled at our sinfulness to the point of hiding from our very Source, he came looking for us, seeking ongoing connection.
God not only knows us and still loves us, but he also wants us. All of us. He offers us the connection he enjoys in the Trinity. An unbreakable intimacy that flows from love.
The psalmist confidently mirrors the need for the help only God can give: “Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!” (Psalm 116:2 nlt)
Side one of our two-sided prayer coin begins honest. The deep dive necessary to discover what we can ultimately enjoy in the presence of God through prayer starts off with Take This Cup. What I want. What I don’t want. What you want. What you don’t want. When we start honest—with ourselves and with God—we ready ourselves to receive not just what we think we want but what our good God wants for us.
Study: Read Matthew 26:39, Matthew 26:42, Mark 14:35–36, Luke 22:42. How does Jesus set up his prayer with an understanding that the Father’s will ultimately trumps his own?
Reflect: As you consider your own “Take This Cup” prayer, what might hold you back from complete honesty?
Practice: Sometimes praying “Take This Cup” means “give me what I want, God” and sometimes it means “take away what I don’t want.” What honest, Take This Cup prayer are you currently praying?