Sometimes we may find it hard to pray. It can feel like a barrier, a brick wall, exists between us and God.
Yet, on my trip to Israel, I found a wall to be a reminder of the freedom and open access we have to God through Jesus.
To get to the Western Wall in Jerusalem, each person has to enter through a military checkpoint.
Just like at the airport, I had to put my bag through an X-ray machine and step through a security gate. A soldier scrutinized my movements, but stepped aside to let me pass.
I entered a broad paved courtyard with the freedom to wander around and walk down to the Wall except for a fence that directed men to the left and women to the right. Plastic chairs littered the vicinity immediately in front of the wall. A number of women sat with heads bowed and eyes closed. Others scribbled intently on scraps of paper.
This section of the Temple Mount stretched out before me, sixty-two feet high, and one hundred and eighty-seven feet long. I didn’t expect these blocks of stone to make me emotional. Although, the sense of the importance of this place to people of many different faiths was as palpable as the music and singing that filled the air—“a Bar Mitzvah celebration most likely,” our guide informed us.
As I stood with only millimeters between my nose and the pitted limestone of these over 2,000-year-old remains, a lump rose in my throat. I watched the woman next to me place her hands on the rough slabs and touch her warm lips to the cold stone, and I knew she felt the same. And then I noticed something unusual about the wall.
Every crevice as far as arms could reach was crammed with white, scrunched-up pieces of paper. I scanned for a suitable location to place my own folded square that contained my carefully worded prayer. Eventually, I found a nook and pushed it in until it held secure.
Then facing the wall, I closed my eyes and prayed in a place where millions of people for thousands of years have come to worship God. And, I realized, a location where Jesus came to pray.
But, access to God during the time God dwelled in a temple was different from what I experienced on that day and how we can participate in prayer every day.
Then, an ornate blue, purple, and crimson curtain, made of the finest fabrics covered the Holy of Holies. This curtain veiled people from seeing or having access to a holy God. Only the high priest could step into the inner sanctum once a year but not without the blood of a sacrifice to make amends for sin.
Jesus, during his life and ministry, permitted a different way of approaching God. Jesus made God’s throne room accessible to us all. Jesus entered the holiest place by his blood, making those sacrifices obsolete.
When Jesus breathed his last breath, the thick, heavy curtain of the Temple tore it two. The way to God was opened up.
Access to God is no longer limited. The so-called security checkpoints have been removed. We have total freedom to come fully into the presence of God in any place, at any time, and with no restrictions.
There are no walls between you and God. Access to God is freely granted by Jesus.
So, friends, we can now—without hesitation—walk right up to God, into “the Holy Place.” Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrifice, acting as our priest before God. The “curtain” into God’s presence is his body.Hebrews 10:19-21