And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mk 15:34)
What do you pray when God feels far away? What do you say to him when everything hurts? What words do you use when you can’t find the words to express your doubts, fears, despair and pain?
The good news is that you don’t have to come up with any words. You can use his. You can let God’s words be your prayer. That’s what Jesus does. In the most painful, darkest, loneliest moment imaginable, Jesus speaks the words of Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1). Maybe he kept going, just in not so loud a voice, “Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?”
We do that all the time. We say, “Our Father, who art in heaven…” the very prayer Jesus taught his disciples. We pray, “Come, Lord Jesus” from Revelation. We borrow the prayer of so many in scripture who said, “Lord, have mercy.”
Praying God’s word is an important reminder that prayer is a conversation. It is a conversation initiated by God. He speaks to us in his word, prompting our response to his powerful, living and active promises, lessons, songs and instructions.
As the very first families began to grow, “people began to call on the name of the Lord” (Genesis 4:26). The fabric of life has always included worship, prayer and praise. It was very much a part of Jesus’ life, too. When he was conceived, his mother sang a song of praise. When he was born, the angels sang. He grew up singing Sabbath psalms at home and festival psalms at Passover. He may have been singing one of them as he hung on the cross.
When we (or Jesus) pray the very words of God, it reminds us that God is not far away at all. When his word is in our heart and in our mouth (Deut. 30:14; Romans 10:8), he is still the one giving us life and breath and everything else we need to live at that very moment. We don’t have to go anywhere to find his presence. He comes to be with us. The Word became flesh to dwell among us. And he promised to never leave. Simply speak his word, and there he is, inhabiting our praises, keeping our way pure, lighting our path, and giving us life.
Heavenly Father, don’t leave me. Fill my songs, prayers and life with your word. Amen.