From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.” Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.” And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
— Matthew 27: 45-50
Thinking about Jesus crying out from the cross on the original Good Friday reminds me of a sermon on prayer I heard years ago.
Tonette and I were visiting a church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and the pastor was gone so the message was delivered that day by a professor from a Christian college in Illinois.
The professor told of how he had been called to a nursing home to minister to a resident in the last stages of his life. Seems as though the elderly man was not near his home church and was hoping to visit with a minister.
As they talked, the professor asked about his prayer life. Laying in bed, the terminally ill man pointed to an empty chair near the wall. He told the professor that since he couldn’t get around, he would sit in his bed all day and talk to Jesus as though he was a dear friend sitting in that chair.
The old man talked to Him about everything. His thanks for the many blessings in his life, his aches and pains and fears of the unknown, and whatever else was on his mind at the moment — all were a part of his daily conversation with God.
What a wonderful description of prayer the professor shared with the congregation that Sunday morning. The dying man had found a way to connect to Jesus in a very real form.
More than 2,000 years ago, people longed to be close to Jesus. Children came running to him. The disciples loved being around him. The sick cried out to him. A woman who had been subject to bleeding for 12 years even reached out just to touch his cloak.
Because Christ is not physically among us today, many followers have a hard time feeling that same intimate connection with Jesus. All too often, we think of prayer only being observed in a place of worship, by clergy or around the dinner table.
What if we didn’t just reach to God during services or before a meal or in a crisis? What if we connected with Him all the time? Most of us reach out to our family and friends multiple times a day via text or a call. Why can’t we do that with Jesus?
In a world where social media is supposed to connect us all, why do so many feel lonely? Posts and tweets are great, but do people really understand what we are really feeling at that moment?
During the first presidential debate in Cleveland in August 2015, I was asked what kind of impact God had on my life. First, I mentioned that I am a sinner and that it is only by the blood of Jesus Christ that I am saved. I try to do His will every day but it’s not like God sends us an email with instructions on what we are supposed to do (it would be much easier if He did). No, instead God asks us to have a personal relationship with Him. Prayer is a way to help understand God’s will.
Which brings me back to that sermon in Iowa. After describing the wonderful image of prayer, the visiting professor told us of how he received a call from the staff at the nursing home a few days after his visit. They thanked him for coming by to see their patient as he passed away during the previous night.
Amazingly, the man who had been confined to a bed for some time had found the strength to get out of that bed and crawl across the room. When they found him in the morning, he was laying with his head on the seat of the chair — he had found his final comfort resting his head in the lap of Jesus.
As we observe Good Friday today and celebrate Easter on Sunday, I pray that each of us can find that comfort — here on earth and in heaven.
• Scott Walker was the 45th governor of Wisconsin. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him @ScottWalker.
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