When I found out that Netflix added the most recent season of Jane the Virgin to its streaming repertoire, I knew exactly how I would spend my weekend. I may or may not have watched all seventeen forty-minute episodes in about 72 hours, complete with a rollercoaster of emotions as I walked alongside these characters, whose rich development made me think I actually knew and loved them, as they experienced the joys and sorrows of life. But mostly I cried. A lot.

(Some spoilers lie ahead.)

Jane the Virgin, set in Miami, is The CW’s adaptation of a Venezuelan telenovela about a devout Catholic woman, Jane, who discovers she has been accidentally artificially inseminated. Yes, it is as absurd as it sounds, and that is just the tip of the drama iceberg. There is a scheming evil twin, a murderous crime-lord stepmother, an absurdly egocentric (but endearing) C-list celebrity, and whiplash-inducing love triangles. As Emily Nussbaum at The New Yorker points out, shrugging off Jane the Virgin as nothing more than a guilty pleasure is easy to do with its colorful set designs and outrageous drama, but to pass such a judgment on this show would be a grave mistake.

Beneath the plot twists and melodrama, Jane the Virgin tackles serious issues: death, grief, cancer, parenting, and forgiveness—just to name a few. And not with succinct platitudes, but with genuine care and compassion, which draw viewers directly into the epicenter of the characters’ pain. The show also handles the Catholic faith with a reverence that is rarely seen on television, incorporating baptism, a traditional wedding ceremony, and conversations about faith. To top it all off, this entirely secular show manages to address prayer with convicting sincerity.

At the end of Chapter Seventy-Seven, Jane’s mom, Xiomara, shares with the family that she has been diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. Immediately, Jane’s grandmother, Alba, kneels by the coffee table, reciting the Lord’s Prayer in Spanish. The episode closes with Jane and her parents joining Alba on their knees in prayer. No mocking or condescending undertones. No “you got this, Xo!” attitude. Just a cry for help. I was completely undone.

In Chapter Seventy-Eight, we see Jane telling her young son Mateo about Xiomara’s diagnosis, and in his unquestioning childhood faith, Mateo asks if he and Jane can pray. Later, Mateo’s father, Rafael, struggles with his son’s request when Mateo appears to believe that his grandmother’s life is dependent on the strength and number of his prayers. Raphael, who is an atheist, goes on to tell Mateo that praying doesn’t always bring about the desired results, but it can still be used as a source of strength in hard times. Eventually, in yet another tug-on-your-heartstrings scene, Rafael joins Mateo on his knees to pray for Xiomara before bed.

Putting aside any theological nuance, the characters’ mere admission of needing strength outside of themselves in the midst of difficulty is something rarely seen in our self-help culture. And not only are they confessing their helplessness, but they are doing so on their knees—a posture of submission and defenselessness typically reserved for pews.

I certainly don’t have the theological expertise to comment on the complex nature of prayer, but I do think Rafael is spot on about one thing: the work of God is not dependent on the quantity or quality of our prayers. There are countless circumstances in one’s life when prayer seems like a Herculean task, when the words are simply not there, or when anger at God stifles even the idea of prayer. And it is precisely in these moments when God graciously meets us with his Holy Spirit: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words” (Romans 8:26).

By the season 4 finale, it was yet to be seen how these prayers would be answered, so until the season 5 premiere—and while we wait for the answers to our own prayers—we can find hope in the words of Robert F. Capon:

‘Everyone who asks, receives,’ Jesus says, ‘and he who seeks, finds, and to him who knocks, it will be opened.’ Taken literally as a program for conning God into catering to the needs of our lives, that is pure bunk: too many sincere, persistent prayers have simply gone unfulfilled. But taken as a command constantly to bring our deaths to his death and to find our resurrection in his, it is solid gold… We have only to accept the death we already have, and in the clean emptiness of that death we will find the life that all along has been hid for us in Christ in God (Col. 3:3). We are safe, not because of the reasonableness or persistence of our prayers but because he lives in our death. Entombed together with him in baptism, we have already been raised up together in him through faith in the working of God who raised him from the dead (Col. 2:12). While we were dead in our trespasses, he made us alive together in Christ—by grace we are saved—and he raised us up together and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:5, 6). And all of that now. Not just hereafter, and certainly not just a week from some Tuesday.

That, in the last analysis, is why we pray. Not to get some reasonable, small-bore job done, but to celebrate the job beyond all liking and happening that has already been done for us and in us by Jesus. We have a friend in our death; in the end, he meets us nowhere else. Prayer is the flogging of the only Dead Horse actually able to rise.