During this time we are “social distancing,” Jim and I are sharing some of our experiences in Israel earlier this month. As we planned our trip, I imagined being at the iconic Western Wall. This happened on our very first touring day, and the experience left me thinking a lot about the great privilege to be able to communicate with our living Lord.
Observant Jews enter the Western Wall plaza (which they consider the holiest site in Jerusalem, because of its proximity to the ancient Holy of Holies) and they carefully practice the protocol they have been taught for pleasing God in this place. The Western Wall has also been called the “Wailing Wall”, referring to the practice of Jews weeping at the site over the destruction of the Temples.
As I watched people gather to wash their hands before entering the plaza, I thought about the role of repentance in effective praying. I know that a clean conscience will help me have confidence as I present my needs to the Lord. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. (1 John 3:21-22)
I observed women (by the way, there is a separation of men and women at the wall) reading from prayer books, and I saw what seemed to be thousands of written prayers inserted into the crevices of the wall. I know there is some mysticism associated with this practice, but I took a moment to write out the prayer that is always on my mind and not far from my lips these days – physical healing for my brother. I wedged my petition into the wall as a tangible response to the invitation, “Cast all your care on Him, for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) Then I joined hands with my cousins Jeanie and Laura, and we prayed for my brother.
And we prayed for Israel. May ritual give way to relationship!