I went recently to pray at the Western (“Wailing”) Wall in Jerusalem. It is a sacred place where Jews from around the world gather to pray, often leaving written prayers tucked in the spaces between the great stones.
In contrast to the Temple Mount itself, which allows access to non-Muslims for only a few hours a week and where Jews are not permitted to pray, a sign at the entrance announces:
“My house is a house of prayer … for all peoples” (Isa 56:7).
Fittingly, this most holy place for Jews is open to anyone who wants to pray there.
As I walked down to the side of the wall reserved for women, I was struck by the posture of many of them. I had come with a pile of intentions; they had come to pray. Facing the wall, they stood holding small prayer books in front of them. Their lips moved as they read and they rocked softly forward and back in rhythm with their prayer. They were completely absorbed before God.
I decided to do the same. Reading from a Bible app on my phone seemed almost sacrilegious in the context, but as I read and rocked I found myself drawn into the prayer and into the presence of God. I forgot where I was, and found myself taken up into the Psalm:
“Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! … O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!” (Psa 95:2,4).
We Catholics incorporate the physical into our prayer, too. We may not rock—though I find myself doing that now, when alone—but we sing. We bow. We kneel. We cross ourselves. Let’s not lose sight of the way this can work together with our prayerful reading of Scripture, to involve us body and mind together and draw us into the presence of God.
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Years ago, I found the following prayer to say when taking prayers to the Western Wall. I love the imagery of the birds’ eggs, particularly as there are so many birds nesting in the walls of the Temple:
God, make me a messenger for those I love. Let me carry their prayers as if they were my own, and leave them there, softly, like birds’ eggs, nesting in the cracks of a wall, awaiting the time for all they contain to break out into joyous birth. […] in some small way, let this, my journey, awaken hope in those I love and those I barely know, the people among whom I walk in the days ahead.
Perhaps you are one of those who asked me to carry your prayers to the Holy Land on my recent trip there. If you are, please know that they were lifted to the Lord multiple times throughout the pilgrimage. May the Lord bless you all!
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With the exception of the prayer, this post was previously published at BibleStudyforCatholics.com.