Wall of Prayer
There are all sorts of walls. There is the one Israel has built to separate off Palestine. There is the other one in Israel called the Wailing Wall where Jews gather for prayer. There is the Great Wall of China. There are the walls built along highways to block noise. There are dividing walls of hostility as Ephesians speaks of them – not physical walls but emotional, spiritual ones. There are walls to keep out and walls to enclose.
This photographed wall is outside a pilgrimage site in Izmir, Turkey where my son, Kai and I were last summer. The site is purported to be the house where Mary, the mother of Jesus, lived out the end of her life. The wall, as you can see, is covered with the prayers of the pilgrims. The volume itself was moving. Just imagine had we been able to read them.
What prayers do you suppose were offered? Healing for themselves and family members? Peace for the world? To be able to conceive a child? For marriages falling apart or just begun? For healthy children? For help with addiction? For work? For money to pay bills? For harmony in their families? For forgiveness? For clean water and air? For those in prison? For protection from harm?
Since I first came to St. Stephen’s, I’ve thought it would be a gift and sign for the neighborhood if we could put a prayer wall outside our building to invite the prayers of the community. It would be a reminder or perhaps, a teacher of what faith communities do: we gather people’s hopes and dreams and sorrows and hold them up.
The other thing we do is provide space for public grieving, for public celebration, for public ritual. For instance, when the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina of the nine African-Americans at Bible study happened, what if we had had a prayer wall outside, a place to gather the grief of the community?
Lutheran churches are often tucked away in the middle of blocks. We bemoan that now because it’s hard to find us, but the original reason was to show the church as the center of the community. The bars and restaurants are the center of the Trolley Square neighborhood (it’s why we probably should have a storefront there), but we could have a prayer wall and start to be a center for people’s prayers, perhaps, even the ones they don’t realize they have.