Lectio: Mark 15:33-34 (NRSV) – When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Contemplation: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
Meditation: Mark notes that it was three o’clock in the afternoon, and the whole land was under the shroud of darkness. This is important because Jewish law made it the duty for all Jews to pray three times daily: in the morning, the afternoon, and at nightfall. The pattern for praying three times a day is based on the prayer practices of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Israel’s three patriarchs. Abraham prayed in the morning, Isaac, at noon, and Jacob in the evening. The darkness of the day and the nearness of his death made this moment Jesus’ nightfall prayer time.
Prayer acknowledges an intimate spiritual attachment and interdependency between the person praying and God. It is a pathway into God’s presence that includes praise and thanksgiving for God’s goodness and greatness, acts of penitence, followed by confidence and boldness to approach God with one’s petitions to receive mercy and find grace in time of need.
When Jesus prayed at three o’clock on that dark afternoon, he experienced forsakenness and a sense of being left exposed, unguarded, forgotten, ignored, and deserted. The schemes and plots of his enemies have succeeded. His appearance is beyond human semblance. His strength is failing. Trouble surrounds him. God is silent, far from helping him. His bones are out of joint. His heart is weak. He is afflicted and crushed with pain. He cries out to God for deliverance and salvation from the hands of his enemies. His prayer, while painfully honest, also expresses faith that God will respond, will deliver, and will rescue him from the hands of his enemies.
Today I meditate on the many people in our world, our nation, and in our communities that are lifting up nightfall prayers. The nightfall prayers express their exposure and seeming forgotten and desertion by God at a time when life has become unrecognizable, fear and doubt overwhelm, their vision dims, and their energy is drained. Their cries and prayers are signs of trust and hope in God who delivers from the darkness that shrouds and the troubles that surround.
Prayer: For the grace to trust in the deliverance of God during nightfalls.