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Sep 2, 2019

Rocking at the Wailing Wall

Sarah Christmyer

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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Visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

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Ephesus and Ephesians: Windows into What it Means to Be Church


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.

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  • When I was attending primary school, the Notre Dame sisters would teach us over and over again to bow our heads when we speak the name of Jesus. I still do that to this day. I don’t think about it; I just do it. Reading your article awakened that memory and made me think that I take so much for granted. Thank you for your sagacious words.

  • I went to the Great Wall in 1988, I found myself in a deep concentration rocking back and forth in awe a feeling of being in the presence of the Lord. Peaceful, purity, joy, this article reminded me of the experience I had. Thanks

  • I too prayed at the Western Wall in April while on pilgrimage. What a privilege and managed to find a niche into which I placed my intention. The psalm at that time of day was#121 it was so appropriate we were in tears as we stood and recited it. A memory for my whole life.

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