Father in heaven, Giver of all life and Creator and Lover of every person, hear my prayer in the name of your Son Jesus. As I pray for myself, overhear my prayer for others.
I grieve with the family, friends, and all involved in this needless and tragic death. Bring comfort daily to every heart torn apart by this death.
Forgive me when such news does not move me. I know this sort of violence is by no means rare and that my familiarity with it can tempt me to callous my heart to the reality of it and its pain. Bring your light into this darkness and use me as an instrument of yours in doing so.
Help me to remember the many around me who bear unspeakable burdens that I do not, often bearing them while hiding them from me. Stir me to be there for those whose lives I know are deeply troubled and shaken, not distancing myself from them for my own comfort.
Forgive me when my well-meaning attempts to help someone go awry. Thwart Satan’s attempts to bring me to despair and thereby compound the tragedy and darkness that is already. You alone, Lord, know how to love others perfectly. So gently grant me wisdom as to how to love, as you would love, with all of my words and actions.
Peace, Father; for your peace, I pray. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.
Jesus answered, “… I was born and came into the world for this reason: to testify to the truth. Whoever accepts the truth listens to my voice.”
“What is truth?” Pilate asked. (John 18:37b-38 CEB)
It was just his way of ending the conversation, but you have to wonder: how did Pilate mean it and how did he say it?
“What is truth?”
Was he cynically mocking Jesus, jesting with him. “Truth? Come off it! There is no ‘truth’ and you and I both know it.” Spoken, as it were, by a man who has seen too much and who has allowed his heart to become hard.
Or did Pilate say it with a far away look in his eye and a wistful tone in his voice as if to say, “I remember what it was like to believe a person could know ‘truth’ … and I wish I could believe that again.” Words from the lips of a man living a life of quiet desperation.
Of course, in the end I suppose, it matters not which way he meant it, for Satan is just as content to corrupt our spirit with melancholy as he is with cynicism.
But still, I wonder, for there are many who still ask the same question today, in both ways, and I, at times, am one of them.
My Father in heaven, in Christ’s name I thank you for not leaving me in this dark world with no light at all. Thank you for stepping into the middle of my wondering and giving me grounding. Thank you for continually delivering me from pining for the past and the equally great darkness of feeling helpless due to hopelessness. Amen.
From noon until three in the afternoon the whole earth was dark. At about three Jesus cried out with a loud shout, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani,” which means, “My God, my God, why have you left me?'” (Matthew 27:45-46 CEB)
But my church doesn’t do that well in the dark. “I’m at a happy church, unfortunately,” said a woman in my hearing. A “happy church?”
“Yep,” she explained. “Everything is so happy and upbeat. The preacher jumps up on stage at the beginning of the service, just grinning and giggling. Looks like he may be on some kind of drug, he’s so unbearably, insufferably happy. Every other word from him is “awesome!” “Wasn’t that an awesome song?” “Isn’t our praise band just awesome!” All the music is upbeat and giddy. It’s hell to be going through a tough time in your life and be forced to worship at a happy church.”
She reminded me of my last visit to an incurably “happy church.” After the service, as we were all just grinning and swinging our sunny way out into the parking lot, I had to ask the pastor, “Is there no one here today with cancer? No one whose marriage is failing?”
Like I said, my church doesn’t do all that well in the dark.
What words, what terrible, frightening words, this middle, dark word from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
This is the word that sets all the other words from the cross in context. This is the word that holds together all the rest, the word that uncovers the scandal of the words.… The fourth word could not have been the first word. If it had been, I doubt we would’ve stayed for the other six. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
And yet curiously, these searing words are words of hope. In the course of my life – in times of darkness and despair, when it has been my turn to walk the valley, true, a valley not as dark as the one that Jesus walked on Good Friday, but still dark – I may have blurted out some anguished words to God, but nothing I have said is as accusing, as angry, or is anguished as this: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
To hear these words upon the lips of Jesus, to have these words here, is a great … comfort. …
Most of my prayers are, “God give me this, God grant me that. God deliver me, preserve me, rescue, save me.” Jesus did not ask the Father for deliverance but for presence. Jesus’ nearly last prayer was, “God, where are you?” …
Truly Christian prayer is, at its best, the honest prayer, “God, preserve me from trying to get you to run the world on my terms. Save me from trying to get my life to work out the way I want. Bend me to pray like Jesus, ‘Not my will, but thine, be done.'”
William Willimon, Thank God It’s Friday: Encountering the Seven Last Words of the Cross, pp.39-40,43-44