Living with a prayer plant

September 23, 2020 · Print This Article

A few months ago, I received a lovely surprise: a plant through the post. I remember opening the cardboard box desperately trying to remember if I had recently ordered something! I unwrapped Maranta Leuconeura, also known as the Prayer Plant. The next day was quite traumatic: I discovered the leaves were in a serious droop. A quick check of my Prayer Plant found the soil to be moist, so it wasn’t due to a lack of water. A frantic search on the internet discovered that this was normal ‘behaviour’. During the day the leaves of Maranta Leuconeura droop downwards, but at night they lift up and even fold. To some this has looked like the closing of hands in prayer, which explains its common name.

However, I’m not too sure about that description. I guess it’s all about your perception of spiritual matters, as it seems to me that the ‘prayer’ happens the other way around. When my plant droops during the day, it looks like it is in the middle of humble supplication. As I received this gift during the UK Lockdown, it almost seemed as if the plant was interceding during the worst moments of the Covid-19 crisis.

My Prayer Plant reminds me of another gift; this time of a picture given to my Mum. It is a print of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane by Heinrich Hofmann. I need to be honest: I don’t like it. I don’t think it is my Mum’s cup of tea either, but it was gifted by a friend who passed away some years ago. The picture reminds Mum of her friend. Why don’t I like it? Well…it’s all a bit too nice. The picture shows a Jesus who is serenely praying, completely oblivious to all that is going on around him. One version of this event records Jesus as being in anguish.[1] Hoffmann’s depiction doesn’t feel real, that this really is a man coming to grips with the knowledge that he will soon be executed. Perhaps, again, it all comes down to my perception of spiritual matters. Do accept my apologies if you think Hofmann’s painting is a masterpiece!

Personally, I much prefer to study my prayer plant than to look at Hofmann’s painting. My drooping plant does look like it is wrestling with mighty issues in prayer, humbly looking to God for his action in a troubled world. It also gives me a picture of what Jesus may well have felt like in the Garden of Gethsemane. My plant gives me hope, because it reminds me that prayer can sometimes feel difficult; that there is too much on my mind, which I am struggling to express. Seeing Jesus troubled in the Garden of Gethsemane reminds me that God is not oblivious to the suffering of humanity. Though our troubled thoughts may overwhelm us, God is still on our side, listening to our anguished cries.

Sometimes, a low mood tempts me to ignore prayer. Thankfully, my prayer plant reminds me that my intercessions are not hindered by how I feel. Whether I droop in difficult supplication, or lift my arms in thankfulness, Maranta Leuconeura reminds me that all prayer is worth pursuing.

Ian Woodley info@because.uk.com

[1] The Gospel of Luke 22:44

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