It strikes me as I approach the Western Wall — the Wailing Wall — in Jerusalem. There is a hush over this place, except for the sound of some women softly sobbing. Two things connect us all here, no matter our background, our faith, our socioeconomic level, our native language … prayer and tears.
I wait my turn to find a narrow place to pray directly at the Wall. This limestone wall has become smooth over 2000-plus years from the countless hands and foreheads pressing against it, fervently crying out to God.
If you’re like me, you always want to know a little history of where you are. The Western Wall is part of the western side of the retaining wall of the Temple Mount complex built by Herod the Great in the first century B.C. It is believed to be the most holy place accessible to the Jewish people to pray because of current Muslim control of Temple Mount.
There have been two temples on the Temple Mount. The first was Solomon’s Temple, completed in 957 B.C. It was destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylonia in about 586 B.C.
The Second Temple was repaired and expanded starting in 20 B.C. by King Herod. This was the temple where Jesus taught (Mark 14:49).
In Jesus’ time, the Temple was central to the life of a Jewish person. Mary and Joseph brought Jesus here to be dedicated (Luke 2:22) and it was in the Temple where they found Jesus at age 12, asking questions of the teachers. Jesus loved the Temple and called it His “Father’s house,” which is why John 2 records Jesus clearing the courts of those who were turning it into a market (John 2: 13-17). The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70 after a Jewish revolt. This was 40 years after Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension into heaven.
Today, the scene at the Western Wall is quite a scene to behold. The Western Wall is also referred to the Wailing Wall due to the audible cries that may be heard there. Thousands of Jews come to the Western Wall to pray, worship and lament.
The lady in front of me covers her face with a veil and backs away from the Wall. I take her place and fall to my knees.
Many of us from our trip had written prayers on little pieces of paper to leave there. I cannot believe it. I cannot begin to count all the rolled-up and folded papers, all the prayers, stuffed in every crevice of the Wall and on the ground below.
I whisper my deepest praises, prayers and dreams, as I weep beside another lady wearing a hijab. Our whispered prayers create a soul symphony. After several minutes of prayer, I prepare to leave. The time is too short but my spot is needed by the next vulnerable soul behind me. We had been told not to turn our backs to the wall as we leave. Several of us slowly back away in silence, savoring this moment of unity and peace.
Our guide told us that each day those prayers on paper are collected and buried on the Mount of Olives. If that is so, how beautiful, how powerful, how perfect that is. The same place where our Messiah Jesus will return one day (Zechariah 14:4) is the same place all those written prayers are buried.
Friend, whether at this Western Wall, in the car, outside, or in your home, every prayer you cry out to God is heard. God hears you. God sees you. God answers you in His time.
Billy Graham once said, “If there are any tears in heaven, they will be over the fact that we prayed so little. Heaven is full of answers to prayer for which no one ever bothered to ask.” Let’s pray big, friend.
“As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard.” — 1 Samuel 1:12.
“Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord; O Lord, hear my voice.” — Psalm 130:1-2
“And … the 24 elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” — Revelation 5:8