From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’
All attempts to equate faith in God with escape from suffering, with unbroken, uninterrupted, constant comforting awareness of presence and accompaniment are undone by this 4th word from the cross. Here is the incarnate Word of God in utter desolation crying out into the darkness of his sense of abandonment, his overwhelming experience of absence.
All of our experiences of the absence of God, of alienation from God find their articulation, their resonance here in these words. Whatever these words are—a plea, a protest, a question, an accusation—they are first and foremost a prayer. These words are actually a quote, word for word, from the opening verse of Psalm 22. The first verse of a long prayer for deliverance from hostility and suffering. Ultimately, the Psalm reads like a prayer of trust. To quote the first verse is to invoke the whole Psalm.
Jesus would have known this Psalm. It would have been in his repertoire of prayers. He would have known it by heart. Prayer is a powerful thing. Like getting the wind knocked out of us, there are times when we find ourselves praying because the moment we are in knocks it out of us...when all other language fails us, there is the language of prayer. Because there is God, there is prayer even when, especially when it feels like there is no God.