Thursday, 31 May 2007

God in the Garden in May – Praying for Victory

It’s Bertie’s fault for calling a May Election, as my every waking hour is taken up with the campaign: oh, the frustration of not having the time to garden in May! Flower beds are uncultivated and vegetables unplanted. The lawns turn into meadows as the grasses flower: soon a scythe will be needed not a lawn mower! Susanna and I have been away in May before, and each time we swear never again, but this year is worse - I’m here to watch as weeds take over!

Yet still, thank God, returning from the campaign to pour myself a large glass of wine and walk around the garden, there is so much of beauty and interest to help me unwind. Rambling rose Neige d’Avril is particularly spectacular this year because I did not prune it earlier, a white snowdrift over the arch to the patio; and I’m delighted by other early roses, including Souvenir de St Annes, and Madame Gregoire Staechelin. Foxgloves and lupins make Susanna’s Labyrinth spiky but beautiful this year. Once again I marvel at how Cotinus Royal Purple with an acid-green Euphorbia, and native Bloody Cranesbill Geranium sanguineum, set each other off – a happy combination that I wish I could say was planned! Yellow flowered turnips and white flowered radishes are bolting in the raised beds alongside blue drifts of Forget-me-not which were not planted out in the autumn – even my indolence is forgiven it seems.

My thoughts turn to Balfour Brickner. I found his book Finding God in the Garden (subtitled Backyard Reflections on Life, Love and Compost) when I googled my own blog to see if the search engines had found it. I ordered it immediately from Amazon, and I recommend it highly. A Rabbi associated with Reform Judaism in New York, he retired to tend a garden in Massachusetts. The wise thoughts his gardening prompted show that he and I worship the same loving-father God. Rooted in his own tradition, as I see it he does not recognise the full flowering of the God we share in the other two persons of the Trinity – but he would not agree with me. I was sad to discover that he died a couple of years ago, because I would have loved to talk to him about it.

One profound insight he has given me is this: ‘God does not need our prayers – we do’. Which gets me thinking about the nature of prayer. Politically engaged as I am, can I pray for the success of my candidate in this general election? I could not support her as I do if I did not think that her election would be a step, albeit a small one, toward God’s kingdom. But I can see that other Christians might take the same view about other candidates. How can I expect God to favour my prayers above those of others?

As ever, I think Jesus gives us the key. In the garden of Gethsemane, he prayed for himself: 'My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want'. We are allowed to pray for what we want, to offer to God what we see as our deep wishes and needs, but only if we also accept that our loving-father God's wishes are what really matters.

Postscript: In his wisdom God did not answer my prayer; my candidate was not elected. It is God's will that matters.

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