One theologian describes Jesus’ cry from the cross as “more a shriek than a saying.” It sounds like a cry of despair. In reality it is an affirmation of faith. It is a lament, but it is also liturgy. These words uttered from the cross would have been very familiar to Jesus’ listeners because they quote the first verse of Psalm 22.
Jesus was aware of the prophetic significance of this psalm, which predicted the suffering of Israel’s Messiah, when He took these words upon His lips. This does not mean that the words had no emotional value for Him. It is clear from the Scriptures that Jesus had a rich and intimate prayer life. He often secluded Himself for the purpose of prayer (Matt. 14:23; Luke 5:16; 6:12; 9:28). His prayers leading up to this moment of suffering were both intimate and frank. Jesus expressed the distress He felt in anticipation of His suffering to His disciples and to His Heavenly Father (Matt. 26:38–39). Following the pattern of the Psalms, Jesus also expressed His confidence in God in prayer (John 17:1–26).
Jesus provides a model to follow when we feel forsaken. We should express ourselves to the community of believers but with realistic expectations. If the disciples slept when Jesus asked them to “watch and pray” along with Him, we should not be surprised if they sometimes disappoint us as well (Matt. 26:38–40). When we pray to the Father, we should express ourselves truthfully. We should not try to tell God what we think He wants to hear. He already knows what is in our hearts and is aware of our words before they are spoken (Ps. 139:4). He will not be shocked by our honesty. At the same time, we should express ourselves in faith.