The Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan (Mark 1: 12,13).
Lent marks Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness; at the end of which he was hungry, and Satan tested him. We are encouraged to focus on fasting and temptation, but how did Jesus spend his time? Although we are not told, it is reasonable to assume that for those forty days and nights, he had the place to himself – he was alone; an experience which has recently become all too familiar to many of us.
Follow Jesus through the Gospels and we see that whenever he faced an important moment, a big decision, he took himself off to pray, alone. Living a busy life, he found that time out from the hustle and bustle; time alone with his heavenly father, was invaluable. Again, the gospels give us glimpses of what this might entail; prayer could be formal -prayers learned from an early age – or conversational. Most graphically, and poignantly, we see him wrestling with what lies ahead in the hour before his arrest (Luke 22:39-46). A straight forward ‘arguing it out’. Could this be the sort of prayer that filled these forty days – arguing it out?
There is no one set way of prayer. If we are sincere, we can argue it out with God, tell it as we see it, not as we think we ought to see it, just as Jesus did in Gethsemane. When our mind goes blank, or when we are so occupied with our own concerns that we find it difficult to break out, the prayers we once learned by rote come to our aid, as with Jesus quoting Psalm 22 from the cross (My God, My God, why have you forsaken me – Matthew 27:46, Ps 22:1).
No Zoom, no internet, no phone; yet even in the wilderness, Jesus was not truly alone. God was with him. And so it is for us. However cut-off we may feel through the current restrictions, Jesus has been there before us. As with so many of life’s challenges, he knows from first-hand experience what we are going through. As his father was with him, he is with us.
Rev Philip Payne
The Pew Sheet for 28th February can be found in the Downloads section.