For the past 38 days, my church in Seattle has kept a prayer room open. For every hour of Lent, at least one person has committed to pray in that room. Sometimes groups came together, sometimes families, but for the past 928 hours (and for the few that still remain until Easter), at least one person has been in that room, praying for our church, community, nation, and world.
Today, from 1 to 2pm, I spent my hour in the prayer room. From the moment I opened the door, I was met with a sense of God's presence. A sign on the wall told me to remove my shoes before ascending the staircase into the small attic loft where I would spend the next sixty minutes. At the top of the stairs, I found bibles, journals, prayer books, soft rugs, candles, a prayer bench, and a comfy chair-- all different aids to prayer. But the thing about the room that immediately struck me was its walls, on which the people of my church had written out scripture and prayers with colorful markers.
What stood out most to me about this display was the vulnerability it revealed. On our "wailing wall," my congregation held little back. People wrote down their hurts, their worries, their loneliness, their anger, their fears. And in reading and praying over the walls of that room, I, for the first time in a while, stopped feeling so alone in my own pain, fears, and worries.
This must be what Good Friday is about. In so many of the prayers I read today, there was a sense of pain and frustration at the sheer injustice of the world. I can only imagine that the followers of Jesus must have felt the same way when they saw the most innocent and loving man they knew put to death for a charge he was never guilty of. And I can imagine that's what Jesus felt when he cried out in agony "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?"
But that is the beauty of the cross, that we who follow Christ serve a God who knows what it is to suffer, a God who took pain and injustice and brokenness upon himself for our sake.
Theologian John Stott puts it this way: "I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the Cross. In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it."
Of course, the real beauty of this season comes Sunday, when we see that He is risen, and that our trials, our pain, our suffering, we can leave crucified as we walk towards a new, resurrected life in Christ.
But today we mourn for our broken world, and we place our pain upon the cross, where Christ hangs, grieving with us.