Prayer and Meditation at the Cross

This service was prepared by John D. Witvliet to accompany his article on p. II.

Gathering for Worship

Call to Worship and Greeting

Hymn: "Go to Dark Gethsemane" PsH 381, PH 97, TWC 225

Opening Prayer


Prayer for Illumination

Scripture Readings

Isaiah 52:13-53:12
Hebrews 10:16-25
John 18:1-19:42 (perhaps read as a dramatic reading; see The Dramatized New Testament, ed. Michael Perry. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1993)


Hymn: "The Seven Last Words" (sung to a setting by Jacques Berthier, G.I.A. Publications)

Silent Reflection Praying with Jesus

Prayers of Lament and Intercession

(Include a brief introduction about Good Friday as an occasion for lament. Explain how Psalm 22 functions as a cry of lament for the people of Israel, for Jesus, and for us.

This prayer follows the structure of Psalm 22 (NRSV). At three points in the psalm, the reading pauses for extemporaneous prayers that can be offered by either the pastor, worship leader, or various members of the congregation. The repeated use of Hebrews 4:14-16 at the end of these prayers rehearses the mystery and significance of Christ's identification with us in suffering. The psalm ends with an expression of hope, an anticipation of Easter praise.

As printed, and allowing for ample periods of silence, this prayer does take a significant amount of time. It may be helpfirf to prepare worshipers for this with an announcement prior to the prayer or—hetteryet—an announcement in a church newsletter or bulletin some days or weeks prior to the service.]

My God; my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me, from the
words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest.
Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our ancestors trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried, and were saved;
in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.

[Prayers of lament and intercession, ending with Hebrews 4:14-16]

But I am a worm, and not human;
scorned by others, and despised by the people.
All who see me mock at me;
they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;
"Commit your cause to the LORD; let him
let him rescue the one in whom he delights."

[Prayers of lament and intercession, ending with Hebrews 4:14-16]

Yet it was you who took me from the womb;
you kept me safe on my mother's breast.
On you I was cast from my birth,
and since my mother bore me you have been my
Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.
Many bulls encircle me;
strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
they open wide their mouths at me,
like a ravening and roaring lion.
I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
my mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.

[Prayers of lament and intercession, ending with Hebrews 4:14-16]

For dogs are all around me;
a company of evildoers encircles me.
My hands and my feet have shriveled;
I can count all my bones.
They stare and gloat over me;
they divide my clothes among themselves,
and for my clothing they cast lots.
But you, O Lord, do not be far away!
O my help, come quickly to my aid!
Deliver my soul from the sword,
my life from the power of the dog!
Save me from the mouth of the lion!
From the horns of the wild oxen you have
rescued me.

Prayer of Thanksgiving

I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him;
stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
For he did not despise or abhor
the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me,
but heard when I cried to him.
From you comes my praise in the great congre-
my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
thse who seek him shall praise the Lord.
May your hearts live forever!
All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the LORD;
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before him.
For dominion belongs to the Lord,
and he rules over the nations.
To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth
bow down;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
and I shall live for him.
Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord,
and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet
saying that he has done it.

Hymn: "What Wondrous Love" PsH 379, PH 85, SFL 169, TH 261, TWC 212

Note: This hymn follows the same structure as the psalm. It acknowledges both the experience of "sinking down" and the songs of praise that will be offered in the coming kingdom.


Rev. Dr. John D. Witvliet is director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship and professor of music and worship at Calvin University and Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He also teaches in the religion department at Calvin University.

Reformed Worship 46 © December 1997 Worship Ministries of the Christian Reformed Church. Used by permission.