Needy. Apartment managers think of the handful (or hundreds) of tenants in such a way, because why else do they call or e-mail unless something is wrong? If they’re honest, parents think it’s the most descriptive word for a newborn. And do any of you work in customer service? How do you deal with that all day?
Needy. Needy. Needy. When you say the word you can curl your upper lip and sneer it with a tone that implies it’s inappropriate. Until you remember that we’re all needy at some point, and we rely on others for help.
On Thursday of Holy Week, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus “offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears” to his Father (Hebrews 5:7). The Son of God who humbled himself and became fully human relied on his heavenly Father for help. Just like we do. Needy.
The word “prayer” implies asking for something based on a need. It’s the same word the Bible uses for Zechariah praying for a son (Luke 1:13). Got something you need? Even something you want but you’re not sure if you need it or not? Ask God. Jesus did.
The word “petitions” comes from the term for “olive branch.” Remember back in Genesis after the flood? Noah sent a dove that returned with a leaf from an olive branch to signify a new world of goodness and peace. When the ancient Romans defeated an army they’d have the conquered soldiers carry olive branches as a sign that the battle had given way to peaceful relations. The eagle on the great seal of the United States (look on the back of a quarter or US dollar) is holding an olive branch as a sign of peace. Jesus prayed because he relied on the peaceful relationship he had with his Father. He knew there’d be a listening ear and compassionate heart on the other end. Non-judging. Open and understanding.
Based on 1) personal need and on 2) peaceful relations, Jesus prayed to his Father. In that regard, as a human being, he held no advantage over any of us who pray based on those same terms.
Keep that in mind the next time you pray “in Jesus’ name,” as he is now exalted in the position of interceding at the right hand of God. He is able to tell his Father, “I’ve been there, I know what (your name) needs,” when he carriers your prayer needs to his Father’s throne on your behalf.
PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I am needy. Sometimes I should be more needy but I’m embarrassed that you’ve had enough. Sometimes I should be less needy but I’m scared to act on your promises. Filter my prayers to the Father’s throne so that they ask only for what is good, and give me greater faith to trust in whatever answer is best. Amen.
FURTHER MEDITATION: Read Matthew 26:36-46, the account of Jesus praying in Gethsemane. He has needs, brings them to his Father, and accepts his Father’s answer.