So I’m in this musical right now, and it is the very best thing.
Godspell is a chunk of sacred text, the book of Matthew, turned into an experimental piece of theatre that has remained relevant ever since its premiere in 1971. Needless to say, Godspell is one of my all. time. favorite. shows.
What I love about it most especially, besides the music and the fun, is the fact that this totally secular show with absolutely no Gospel-sharing agenda is, almost completely, word-for-word Scripture. HELLO HOW COOL. I really think Jesus gets a secret delight out of showing up where he is least expected. And he definitely wasn’t expected in a Broadway hit in the seventies. Yet, Godspell is a gospel story from top to bottom.
There is a garden scene right before the crucifixion in Godspell. The show goes from happy-go-lucky to downright solemn in about 2.2 seconds. Jesus says goodbye to his disciples and says, “Stay with me while I go over there to pray. My heart is ready to break with grief.”
Every night, I sit just left of center as my little disciple self, pretending to sleep, and listen to my friend Wesley, who plays Jesus. Here’s what I love about theatre: it makes dry words on a page come alive. Every night, I think about how this very scene played out all those years ago.
When Jesus prays, it’s not, “Oh, Father, please give me strength to do this hard and terrible thing.”
Nope. He straight up says, “Father, if there is any way for this cup to pass me by, please make it happen.”
Um. Hello. Trinity Member No. 2 was like, “I know this is the plan, but please no thank you.” IS HE ALLOWED TO DO THAT?
Yes. Of course he is. Because he’s talking to his Papa. Friend, when talking to Papa, I think the only option is to be completely raw and real. I think that’s how God wants us to pray. He wants us to come to Him for comfort, in the midst of our very darkest valleys. He wants us to be real about what we want, even when there’s nothing that can be done.
Sometimes I censor my prayers. I do this thing where I don’t even say what I’m really thinking, because probably He doesn’t want to hear it. And what would it help? And I can't make him mad. I have to be at my most holy at the feet of Jesus, right?
In the garden that night, Jesus knew what was coming. But that didn’t stop him from crying to his Papa. He didn’t bite the bullet and isolate himself, like I so often do. I think I assume God can’t be bothered. Or, is it really worth it to pray if I know nothing will change? But in Gethsemene, Jesus shares the depths of his heart, the aching and the fear and the panic. He puts it all out there. He asks for the cup to pass.
But then he says, “Not my will, but yours be done.”
That is the trick. To be in tune with the heart of the Father is to be able to be totally honest in moments of hurt, fear, and terrifying trial. But then to stop and say, “Not my will, but yours be done.” If prayer is supposed to be how we get closer to God, then the best way to do that is to be honest about every little thing. But, if we know the heart of the Father, we will always come back around to, "your will be done."
Listen, God already knows your heart before you say a dang thing. Whatever hurt or fear you are holding onto, whatever rude thoughts you’re thinking about that person you’re really mad at—He knows. So what’s the point in pretending?
I think the example of Jesus in the garden should be our blueprint for praying through trials. Admitting weakness, admitting fear, asking for what we want even if it might be impossible, but trusting the Father enough to say, “Your will be done.”