View From The Ridge
One of the interesting sites to visit in Jerusalem is the Western Wall(formerly known as the Wailing Wall) where Jews gather at various times of the day to pray. The Hasidic Jews are the more colorful (if black can be colorful) to watch because of their various antics performed while praying. They are dressed in black suits with black hats, rather than the traditional yarmulke or skull cap. Some cover their heads and shoulders with a large white scarf or shroud, and they bob and weave while reciting over and over prayers read from their prayer books. The sound they make can be related more to wailing than prayer as we know it, which is why it was called the wailing wall for centuries.
The area is fenced off so that only men with their heads covered can enter into the larger section, and there is a smaller area reserved for women. All along the wall are prayer notes stuck into cracks between the blocks. It has the appearance of trash being put there rather than being thrown on the ground. Are the notes there in case God did not hear their prayer or is this a back up system, sort of like e-mail?
One of the days we visited there were about six Bar Mitzvahs being held, which added a festive atmosphere - until you noticed all the armed guards mingling in amongst the crowd and on top of the wall and near by buildings. I don’t know about you, but that kind of affects my prayer mood.
Not a hundred yards way is the Dome of the Rock where the Muslims also gather several times a day to kneel, facing east, and pray to their God while also being protected by armed guards. In a land where terrorist bombs go off in public places rather frequently compared to other countries, the Jewish and Muslim followers still risk the dangers several times a day to pray. This in a land rich with evidence of Jesus and yet totally rejected by those who He died on the cross for. What a waste of time and energy!
Have you ever thought about why this country is free, why we can worship and pray anytime, anywhere, without armed guards to protect us? Do you think maybe it had something to do with our founding fathers and their belief in God and Christ and their desire to build a country that honors God first? During the first 200 years this was a nation after God. We put on our currency “In God we trust”, the early reading primers contained portions of scripture, and we honored God by closing businesses down on Sunday. Yet today, the government has systematically taken God out of being recognized in the schools or on any federal or state property. How much longer will God tolerate our disobedience as a nation and remove his protection.
Scripture addresses the need for prayer, both privately and corporately. In Matthew 6:6 Jesus says that when, not if, but when we pray, to pray in secret. There is a time when we need to privately pray to God and share with Him our deepest feelings and needs.
There is also a time when we need to gather together as a group. In Hebrews, we are encouraged not to forsake our assembling together, to encourage and stimulate one another to love and good deeds. What better way to do this than by spending an hour in prayer with others. Christ promised in Matthew 18:20 that where two or three are gathered, he would be in their midst. Christ prayed in private, as he did in the Garden of Gethsemane, but he also prayed in public as he did in the synagogues.
What is keeping people from coming together in prayer one day a week for one hour? It can’t be the fear of terrorism or persecution. Are we really that busy with worldly tasks or entertainment? Are we really too tired? In the grand scheme of things, our life time is but a blip compared to eternity. One hour a week is a nano-blip. What are our priorities? The things of this world, or God’s agenda. Are we servants of Christ, or slaves to this world.
“Even those I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer, their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar; For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.” Isaiah 56:7