Several years ago I was blessed to travel to Israel. I will never forget this trip of a lifetime. Some of my wonderful memories include watching the sun set over Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives and riding a camel. By the way, camels are mean! I also remember watching faithful Jews praying at the Western Wall. This historic location is the site of the temples in Jerusalem up through Jesus’ time. It is a space that is shared by Muslims, Jews, and Christians. All three of these religions have significant history there.
On the Jewish side, there is access to the wall itself, and visitors are invited to place rolled up prayer requests between the ancient stones and pray there. We watched as Jewish families prayed, with men and women separated by a thick curtain. One striking feature of the prayers was how people stood as they prayed. They bowed continuously from the waist with hands clasped and heads lowered, murmuring their prayers in a low, harmonic hum. As I stood there placing the prayers that I had carried from my church in the mortar cracks, I closed my eyes and listened to all of the many languages that were being lifted up. I had a strong conviction that this is what heaven sounds like. Watching the faithful Jews lined up and facing the wall as they bobbed and weaved was a marvelous sight. The sound was even better.
The origin of this practice is found in an interpretation of Psalm 146, which encourages us to praise the Lord with our ”whole being.” So rather than sit in a passive attitude thinking their prayers, these men and women gathered at the wall were engaging their ”whole being” in a physical expression of moving through the prayer.
Psalm 146 (Common English Bible)
Let my whole being praise the Lord!
2 I will praise the Lord with all my life;
I will sing praises to my God as long as I live.
Now pay attention to this next part, and remember that it was written thousands of years ago in a much different political environment than the one we live in today:
3 Don’t trust leaders;
don’t trust any human beings—
there’s no saving help with them!
4 Their breath leaves them,
then they go back to the ground.
On that very same day, their plans die too.
So maybe the political environment thousands of years ago was not that much different than today! Truth is truth. God’s truth will always abide … the rest is just fleeting breath and temporary manmade plans. The only way to find help is through God. The only way to find happiness is by resting your hope on the Lord. Human beings will let you down all the time, but God gives justice to the oppressed, bread to the starving, and freedom to the prisoners.
5 The person whose help is the God of Jacob—
the person whose hope rests on the Lord their God—
is truly happy!
6 God: the maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
God: who is faithful forever,
7 who gives justice to people who are oppressed,
who gives bread to people who are starving!
The Lord: who frees prisoners.
8 The Lord: who makes the blind see.
The Lord: who straightens up those who are bent low.
The Lord: who loves the righteous.
9 The Lord: who protects immigrants,
who helps orphans and widows,
but who makes the way of the wicked twist and turn!
10 The Lord will rule forever!
Zion, your God will rule from one generation to the next!
Today, make your prayers active prayers. Move around, take a walk, pray out loud. Let your WHOLE being praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord!