jQuery Slider

You are here

Biblical Prayer: Forsaken - Alone?

DEVOTIONAL - BIBLICAL PRAYER: FORSAKEN - ALONE?

By Ted Schroder

April 4, 2004

It is hard enough to be forsaken by those you love: a husband or wife, a parent or child, a partner or friend. But what would it be like to be forsaken by your alter ego, your second self, your inseparable companion, the other members of the Holy Trinity? Jesus experienced this in an infinite way on the Cross.

Taking upon himself the sin of the world that separated a man from God, that created a barrier, the dividing wall of hostility between heaven and hell, that formed the great chasm between the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world, Jesus fulfilled the role of the scapegoat who bore the disgrace of sinners. As he assumed this terrible burden for us Jesus cried out: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34)

This is known as the prayer of dereliction. Dereliction means being abandoned. It evokes the sense of a building that is uninhabited, long deserted by its former owners, fallen into disrepair. Jesus, the Son of God, experienced real abandonment by his Father. There is a tear in the heart of the Trinity that reflects the alienation in the universe between a holy God and a sinful human race.

It is a cry of despair. Jesus plumbs the depths of human sin and suffering and descends into the abyss that is often the experience of despairing and condemned souls. He asked the question that is asked by so many human beings when they are faced with punishment and suffering that overwhelms them in its seemingly senseless cruelty. Jesus suffered in every way that we do.

All the questions that we can ask of God, about hellfire and judgment, all the bitterness we can feel at the arbitrary and undeserved suffering in the world, are summed up in this prayer of Jesus. God descended from heaven to earth to experience the consequences of the total depravity of sin, death and the devil. He endured the sickness unto death, and the blackest of judgments. In that darkness he experienced extreme loneliness and called out for help. There is no verbal and audible reply. Jesus is called to bear his suffering, to endure it, without a reassuring word from God. God is perfect love, yet on the Cross God is torn apart.

The judgment of God is taken upon himself. The Son of God experienced the wages of sin, death, as being abandoned by God. It is a moment of utter darkness. For three hours there is darkness in the middle of the day as hell is experienced on earth in the person of Jesus. Light is extinguished. The light of the world does not shine forth. "With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, "Surely this man was the Son of God!" (Mark 15:39)

At the moment at which God seemed to be most absent, the presence of God was affirmed. The centurion saw the presence of God when that presence was questioned. He recognized that Jesus was the Son of God at the point of his death. Christianity teaches that God reveals himself to us primarily through the Cross of Christ. It is in the moment of abandonment that God identifies with the weak and the suffering. Edward Shillito wrote about the "Jesus of the scars": The other gods were strong, but thou wast weak; They rode, but thou didst stumble to a throne; But to our wounds only God's wounds can speak, And not a god has wounds, but thou alone.

The presence of God is to be found in weakness not in might. God hides himself from the powerful and the proud and reveals himself to those in pain and suffering. Elie Wiesel in his famous book Night, where he wrote about his experience of the evils of the Holocaust, expressed that he lost his faith in God when he observed the undeserved suffering of so many innocent children and their parents. Their deaths represented the death of his faith. God to him is dead. But in Jesus death reveals God. So many of our prayers are cries of dereliction. We ask Where are you, Lord? Why, Lord? Don't you care, Lord? Why are you letting this happen, Lord?

What have we done to deserve this, Lord? Why have you forsaken me, Lord? These cries are part of the story of Jesus. God identifies with us in our feelings of despair and abandonment. He takes our place on the cross and feels the full effects of our alienation from Himself. When we experience this alienation we echo the very words Jesus used on the cross. In his sense of forsakenness, Jesus revealed the presence of God. Jesus revealed the God of love, compassion and mercy.

When we experience abandonment by God we know that God has experienced this in himself before us. If Jesus could pray this prayer, and still be in the center of God's will, so can you and me. In his suffering Jesus unites us with a God who loves us enough to be willing to experience the ultimate in painful dislocation. John Stott, in The Cross of Christ, wrote: "I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross. The only God I believe in is the One Nietzsche ridiculed as 'God on the cross'. In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?

I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of the Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after a while I have had to turn away. And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged into God-forsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain.

He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of this. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it, we boldly stamp another mark, the cross which symbolizes divine suffering." There is no suffering, no sin, that Jesus has not borne for us. There is no loneliness, no abandonment, no rejection, no condemnation, no alienation, no despair, that God in Christ has not endured for you and for me. The Cross gives the lie to those who would fault or blame God for the evils of human existence. Jesus endured it all so that we might have hope and peace.

If he has done so much for us why would we not want to do everything for him and his kingdom? A Prayer: Lord Christ. By the nails through your hands and feet, give comfort to the suffering. By the crown of thorns upon your head, give hope to the despairing. By the spear that pierced your side, give courage to the heart-broken. By your being scorned and rejected of men, give love to the lonely. By your time of desolation, lift up all who are down. By your death on the cross, give us life which is eternal. O my Lord, lead me safe through all the tests, the darknesses, the pains. Help me hold fast the beginning of my confidence firm unto the end. My God, my God, stretch forth your wounded hands to strengthen mine. Never will you forsake me, never let me forsake you, my living, only God.

END

DEVOTIONAL - BIBLICAL PRAYER: FORSAKEN - ALONE?

By Ted Schroder

April 4, 2004

It is hard enough to be forsaken by those you love: a husband or wife, a parent or child, a partner or friend. But what would it be like to be forsaken by your alter ego, your second self, your inseparable companion, the other members of the Holy Trinity? Jesus experienced this in an infinite way on the Cross.

Taking upon himself the sin of the world that separated a man from God, that created a barrier, the dividing wall of hostility between heaven and hell, that formed the great chasm between the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world, Jesus fulfilled the role of the scapegoat who bore the disgrace of sinners. As he assumed this terrible burden for us Jesus cried out: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34)

This is known as the prayer of dereliction. Dereliction means being abandoned. It evokes the sense of a building that is uninhabited, long deserted by its former owners, fallen into disrepair. Jesus, the Son of God, experienced real abandonment by his Father. There is a tear in the heart of the Trinity that reflects the alienation in the universe between a holy God and a sinful human race.

It is a cry of despair. Jesus plumbs the depths of human sin and suffering and descends into the abyss that is often the experience of despairing and condemned souls. He asked the question that is asked by so many human beings when they are faced with punishment and suffering that overwhelms them in its seemingly senseless cruelty. Jesus suffered in every way that we do.

All the questions that we can ask of God, about hellfire and judgment, all the bitterness we can feel at the arbitrary and undeserved suffering in the world, are summed up in this prayer of Jesus. God descended from heaven to earth to experience the consequences of the total depravity of sin, death and the devil. He endured the sickness unto death, and the blackest of judgments. In that darkness he experienced extreme loneliness and called out for help. There is no verbal and audible reply. Jesus is called to bear his suffering, to endure it, without a reassuring word from God. God is perfect love, yet on the Cross God is torn apart.

The judgment of God is taken upon himself. The Son of God experienced the wages of sin, death, as being abandoned by God. It is a moment of utter darkness. For three hours there is darkness in the middle of the day as hell is experienced on earth in the person of Jesus. Light is extinguished. The light of the world does not shine forth. "With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, "Surely this man was the Son of God!" (Mark 15:39)

At the moment at which God seemed to be most absent, the presence of God was affirmed. The centurion saw the presence of God when that presence was questioned. He recognized that Jesus was the Son of God at the point of his death. Christianity teaches that God reveals himself to us primarily through the Cross of Christ. It is in the moment of abandonment that God identifies with the weak and the suffering. Edward Shillito wrote about the "Jesus of the scars": The other gods were strong, but thou wast weak; They rode, but thou didst stumble to a throne; But to our wounds only God's wounds can speak, And not a god has wounds, but thou alone.

The presence of God is to be found in weakness not in might. God hides himself from the powerful and the proud and reveals himself to those in pain and suffering. Elie Wiesel in his famous book Night, where he wrote about his experience of the evils of the Holocaust, expressed that he lost his faith in God when he observed the undeserved suffering of so many innocent children and their parents. Their deaths represented the death of his faith. God to him is dead. But in Jesus death reveals God. So many of our prayers are cries of dereliction. We ask Where are you, Lord? Why, Lord? Don't you care, Lord? Why are you letting this happen, Lord?

What have we done to deserve this, Lord? Why have you forsaken me, Lord? These cries are part of the story of Jesus. God identifies with us in our feelings of despair and abandonment. He takes our place on the cross and feels the full effects of our alienation from Himself. When we experience this alienation we echo the very words Jesus used on the cross. In his sense of forsakenness, Jesus revealed the presence of God. Jesus revealed the God of love, compassion and mercy.

When we experience abandonment by God we know that God has experienced this in himself before us. If Jesus could pray this prayer, and still be in the center of God's will, so can you and me. In his suffering Jesus unites us with a God who loves us enough to be willing to experience the ultimate in painful dislocation. John Stott, in The Cross of Christ, wrote: "I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross. The only God I believe in is the One Nietzsche ridiculed as 'God on the cross'. In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?

I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of the Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after a while I have had to turn away. And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged into God-forsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain.

He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of this. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it, we boldly stamp another mark, the cross which symbolizes divine suffering." There is no suffering, no sin, that Jesus has not borne for us. There is no loneliness, no abandonment, no rejection, no condemnation, no alienation, no despair, that God in Christ has not endured for you and for me. The Cross gives the lie to those who would fault or blame God for the evils of human existence. Jesus endured it all so that we might have hope and peace.

If he has done so much for us why would we not want to do everything for him and his kingdom? A Prayer: Lord Christ. By the nails through your hands and feet, give comfort to the suffering. By the crown of thorns upon your head, give hope to the despairing. By the spear that pierced your side, give courage to the heart-broken. By your being scorned and rejected of men, give love to the lonely. By your time of desolation, lift up all who are down. By your death on the cross, give us life which is eternal. O my Lord, lead me safe through all the tests, the darknesses, the pains. Help me hold fast the beginning of my confidence firm unto the end. My God, my God, stretch forth your wounded hands to strengthen mine. Never will you forsake me, never let me forsake you, my living, only God.

END

Subscribe
Get a bi-weekly summary of Anglican news from around the world.
comments powered by Disqus
Trinity School for Ministry
Prayer Book Alliance

Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee

Drink Coffee

Do Good

Sustainable Ministry

Coffee, Community, Social Justice

DrinkCoffeeDoGood.com

Go To Top