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” (Isaiah 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!” (Psalms 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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About Sarah Christmyer
Sarah Christmyer is co-developer with Jeff Cavins of The Great Adventure Catholic Bible study program. She is author or co-author of a number of the studies. Sarah has thirty years of experience leading and teaching Bible studies. She helped launch Catholic Scripture Study and is co-author of “Genesis Part I: God and His Creation” and “Genesis Part II: God and His Family,” published by Emmaus Road. Raised in a strong evangelical family, she was received into the Catholic Church in 1992. Sarah also writes at comeintotheword.com.
This blog post first appeared on the Ascension Blog’s former home, The Great Adventure Blog (biblestudyforcatholics.com), December 5, 2013.