March 2023

'I will bring you into the wilderness ... then you will know that I am the Lord'.  Ezekiel 20.35 (NIV)

The necessity of a wilderness experience for spiritual growth is strongly attested both in Scripture and in the history of spirituality. Sometimes the initiative is of God, from above. The Spirit ‘drove’ Jesus into the wilderness (Mark 1.12). Sometimes it is ours, from below, as with St. Paul following his conversion (Galatians 1.17) or Elijah (1 Kings 19.4). Hosea hears a similar ‘word’ from I AM, but with a changed nuance: ‘I will allure (my people) into the wilderness’ (Hosea 2.14).

Our silent and sometimes solitary prayer is a kind of wilderness – an empty space in which our-self confronts the supreme Self: I AM , or is confronted by Him ... a space where there is nothing (no-thing) else. But let us not forget, especially when we find this emptiness hard to cope with, that we stand alongside countless others. It is always encouraging to know that we are a fellowship, part of a network of unceasing prayer and contemplation with others who belong with us to ‘the household of faith.’

We can also be very aware of those people who are lost in a desert of meaningless affluence, mindless violence, or who are attempting some futile escape from reality into malign fantasies or addictions.

This makes valid work of our contemplative prayer, which becomes an intercession for the world’s lost.  Our emptiness is gradually, if fitfully, due to our weakness, filled by the Word of God, which is 'spirit and life'.  We are being called to understand how the word is spoken at all times and in all places.  People need and long to hear and receive it, at times, even without realising what it is they long for.   

We are engaging in mission and proclaiming salvation when we move into our contemplative intercessory prayer time, praying for those who are lost in desperate ‘wilderness type’ situations.