Six months ago I started on a prayer journey, one that is leading me into the desert, one that is helping me to encounter God in fresh ways.
It was unfinished business that led me to this. I went through a time of depression in 2010 which took a long time to journey through to a place of healing. Near the start of that trough, I was given a prophetic picture that felt quite profound at the time. In this picture I was standing in a desert with strong, warm winds around me. I had a beard and yet no clothing except a cloak, with a staff in my hand. At the time the meaning seemed simple – that I was being stripped back and yet God hadn’t finished with me.
I have revisited that picture in my mind’s eye a number of times. Although I did find emotional healing for my wounds, even in the midst of busy church leadership, I think I have wondered if there was a deeper ‘call to the desert’ in that prophetic vision.
Well, this March I felt the nudge of the Spirit more strongly to turn aside and journey with the Lord into the wilderness. I grew a beard (a first for me!), I went off all social media, I carved out time to read about desert spirituality and I prayed more – asking God to take me on a wilderness journey.
I am enjoying the experience so far. I have not yet actually gone into a desert, just found solitude and some lonely spaces. I am learning from some of the wilderness saints of old, for their desert was both one of their own hearts and also a prophetic journey.
For me, I know that I need to let Him help me deal with the poverty of my heart, and find the treasure of His presence there.
I choose to stand in the strong winds of the Spirit and cross currents of life circumstances, and be strengthened in the midst. I have a beard to identify with the Nazarite sense of setting oneself apart for God more than previously. I unclench my fists from my wants and desires to receive the gift of a cloak which He wraps around me – His righteousness, holiness and anointing. I stop trying to lean on external props and unhelpful crutches, that I may become secure in God alone and take hold of His staff of authority.
It was said of John the Baptist that ‘he grew and became strong in spirit, and he lived in the wilderness…’ (Luke 1v80).
This desert prayer journey for me is quite profound, even though it seems at odds with some of the prophetic sense of God’s work in the nation, expectancy of spiritual awakening, and shaking in the nation. Yet I trust it will reap dividends for me and maybe for others too. I am on parallel journeys of, on one hand pressing in in prayer for God’s glory to be revealed in our nation, and on the other turning aside personally, to wait for the Lord in the wilderness.
As Catholic devotional writer Alessandro Pronzato says,
“The crowded bus, the long queue, the railway platform, the traffic jam, the niehgbours’ television sets, the heavy-footed people on the floor above you, the person who still keeps getting the wrong number on your phone. These are the real conditions of your desert. Do not allow yourself to be irritated. Do not try to escape. Do not postpone your prayer. Kneel down. Enter that disturbed solitude. Let your silence be spoilt by those sounds. It is the beginning of your desert.”
So this aspect of my blog is journalling a few things I am learning on this desert prayer journey. I will write about other things too, but will mark similar writings with a ‘desert and pilgrimage’ tag. You are welcome to read my musings as ever; personal though they may be, they may resonate with something of your journey.