Mark 14:39

Again he went away, and prayed in the same words;

whether vain or not
puts blinders on
the clearest vision

hope and stupidity
are never far apart
both expect a result
beyond repetition’s ability

At what point does repetition of a request indicate an assumed weakness of the one being asked for a change of heart. Think here of any child trying to get something they want. They only need to be insistent and they will wear down their caregiver. Short-term persistence wins out over a longer-term vision. Such repetition is an admission that the partnership is on shaky ground.

Such repetition is not working with the disciples (“keep awake”) and it is not working with G*D. Aichele15puts it this way, “the silence of Abba in Gethsemane is matched by the confusion or indifference of the disciples….”

A more positive reference for repetition is Gideon’s “Fleece” (Judges 6:36–40). When Gideon is trying to determine the validity of a word from G*D that he didn’t like and wanted changed, he tested G*D with requests for a physical sign to confirm the direction he saw things going.

Jesus receives neither a sign nor a word that his inner conflict of “spirit and flesh” changes anything. An affirmative sign would be welcome; no sign at all is troubling. We are basically reduced to, “A Beloved is a Beloved, and there are consequences that must be borne if there is any integrity in all that has come before.”

Myers189sets this prayer in a slightly different context:

Though profoundly shaken, Jesus demonstrates true prayer, which takes us to the heart of Mark’s theological argument. All things are possible for God, but the first concern of prayer is not to remedy personal distress but rather to seek the One whose will is the healing of our broken history (14:26).

I remain skeptical of the modifiers of “true” and “first” that are used here. Both seem a bit too easy in the messy business of tikkun olam. Trying to partner a G*D and an Image of G*D speaks to brokenness in both as well as mutual assistance in rising. Leonard Bernstein’s third symphony prayer, Kaddish, speaks to this mutuality (be sure to listen to the recording that features Jennie Tourel).

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