You have kept record
of my days of wandering.
You have stored my tears
in your bottle
and counted each of them.
Psalm 56:8 (CEV)
Before our trip to Israel began, each participant was given a journal explaining different sites we’d visit as well as space to record relevant thoughts and experiences. Of course, the writer in me appreciated this tool.
Praying at the Western Wall was one of my most meaningful experiences during the tour. Even though the pages in my journal attached to this site remain empty, the memories are vivid.
Prayer has been part of my life since I was a child. When a little girl, at bedtime, I’d recite, “Now I lay me, down to sleep…” or at mealtime, “God is great, and God is good…”
Throughout my faith journey, I’ve practiced various ways to pray. I’ve tried to imitate the style of those I thought prayed ‘right.’ I’ve used different prayer models. I’ve made a New Year’s resolution to “become a better pray-er.” I’ve read books and attended seminars on prayer. I’ve prayed Scripture. I’ve found great satisfaction in recording prayers in a journal.
Yet, the older I grow, and the more I pray, the greater is the mystery of prayer, and the less adequate I feel in the matter of prayer. While traveling to Israel, I began reading a book my friend gave me a few days prior to leaving—Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Hayley Barton. About prayer, Barton says, “Simply put, prayer is all the ways in which we communicate and commune with God. The fundamental purpose of prayer is to deepen our intimacy with God.”
Relational intimacy, whether human or divine, is never achieved quickly. Developing an intimate relationship involves not only time but also seasons
when we talk and share a lot;
when we feel like we’re just ‘hanging-in’ there;
when we try to figure out what works;
when we know what we’re doing isn’t working;
when we know we’re cherished;
when we wonder.
Praying at the Western Wall was an experience which added yet another layer to the mystery of prayer, but also deepened my belief in the importance of prayer. A quote from our journal provides historical and spiritual context to the significance of the Western Wall:
“The Western Wall is the most holy place accessible to the Jewish people today due to the fact that their Temple has been destroyed. This wall was built by Herod the Great as the retaining wall of the Temple Mount complex. Before [the war of] 1967, the wall was referred to as the Wailing Wall since Jews were only allowed to visit the site on the 9th of Av. Because the Temple is in ruin, this wall is the closest anyone can get to what once was the Holy of Holies. Many come to pray here as well as to insert prayers in the cracks of the wall.”
Our tour guide, Jane, told us we’d probably have difficulty finding an open space on the wall if we wanted to insert a prayer. We were arriving on the eve of Shabbat; Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, was in a few days. The Wall would be extra busy, Jane explained.
After waiting my turn with many other women (The Wall is segregated with men going to one section and women another.), I approached the Wall, surprised to see an open space between stones, right before me. I inserted the little folded piece of paper on which I’d written in the tiniest script possible several requests.
My first request was a prayer for divine blessing on my children and grandchildren to the fourth generation. Even though I know I’m praying for people I’ll never meet this side of Heaven, I make this request to God often, believing God knows these future heirs of mine even if I don’t. My prayers are part of the legacy I desire to leave.
Women on either side of me wept. What was the story behind their tears? I wondered. Their tears intensified my already heightened emotions, and the salty liquid flowing down my cheeks felt altogether appropriate.
Several minutes I stood at the Wall, weeping, not uttering a word. Mine weren’t tears of sadness. I felt contentment and comfort.
As I relinquished my position to the woman waiting behind, I sensed the assurance a never-changing, ever-available God heard me and heard other women who had prayed before me, who prayed with me and who would pray after me.
Weeping at The Western Wall in Jerusalem will, I know, remain one of the most profoundly intimate prayer experiences of my lifetime.
Blessings on your journey of intimacy in prayer…
Note: I will be sharing additional posts about our impactful trip to Israel. For more information about your own trip to Israel, we recommend highly Dan and Sharon Stolbarger, our group leaders. If this is a trip you’d love to make, check them out at http://holygroundexplorations.com/