In the Wilderness

Luke 5:16; 6:12  But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer. One day soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night.

It’s the day we celebrate the birth of Scotland’s national poet, Rabbie Burns, 25th January 2018. The sun is beating down, the recent winds have quietened, the snow has gone (apart from the last few crumbs of ice left over from a very ambitious snowman built in a neighbour’s garden, the scarf and twiggy arms lying forlornly, as though grieving for their master’s demise). So, a lunchtime walk is in order. I headed for the West Fife Cycle Way, a 17 km strip of tarmacadam connecting Dunfermline with Clackmannan, it’s railway origin betrayed by the gentle gradients and straight sections and the aging and crumbling remains of bridges, concrete bunkers and artefacts, and brick, graffiti-covered walls holding back the otherwise rampant terrain and vegetation. Saplings and more established trees in places form arches over the leaf-strewn path, blocking out the sun and transforming the atmosphere into something cavernous and almost sepulchral. The distant gentle roar of a jet engine reminds of the proximity to Edinburgh Airport, but not too intrusively. Closer, an unmuted car exhaust defiantly announces that electric propulsion is not for all. At least not yet. And, because it is lunchtime, the squeals, shouts, and chit-chat of children in a local school distantly join together forming an indistinct cacophony of young life, echoing through the trees. Birdsong is strangely absent apart from the occasional twitter and flutter of wings in the trees. However, it’s early in the year yet; these woods will soon be dominated by the sounds of many warblers. A constant background rumble from the Bluther Burn provides an audible backdrop to my walk, the Burn’s normally benign and silent trickle totally overwhelmed by snow melt, the aqueous clarity now muddied with a grey-green silt, an amalgam of agricultural residues and the dregs of legacy coal mine workings, further upstream.

But on my walk, I’m alone. Just me and Archie, our pet Westie. He’s happy enough, sniffing his way as usual through the undergrowth, bounding his way to the next new smell. My lonely walks are my favourite prayer times. Where I mull over issues, reach out to God for answers, think about the wonders of the world around me and the God Who created all. Where I lift up my friends and family to Him, knowing that He listens to me and answers my prayers. My soul becomes warmed by His presence and encouraged by His closeness, and occasionally a “still, small voice” brings significance.

But my “being alone” cannot compare with the experiences of Jesus, when He went to a lonely place, to a wilderness, to pray. The only sounds He would experience would be the scurries of small animals, perhaps the buzz of insects, or a gust of wind whistling and whining around some buttress of rock. Perhaps a larger animal in the distance stretching its tonsils. Perhaps a flapping from overhead, a bird of prey keenly looking for its next meal. No man-made sounds.

Jesus withdrew from the hubbub of life to pray. And no place better than the wilderness, a place where He could spend time with God, His Father. No pew in a darkened and dusty mausoleum for Jesus. No grabbing a few moments in a corner. He headed off to places where there was no-one else. It probably took Him a significant amount of time to get there because He walked. He also went up mountains – imagine climbing Ben Cleuch in the Ochils to have your Quiet Time. Imagine the anticipation building, knowing that He was going to spend time with the One He loved the most, His Dad.

MM7198.JPGAnd what would that divine dialogue have looked like? No “hands together, eyes closed” religiosity I’m sure. No head down, mumbled repetitive prayers using a language more appropriate to the 18th century. This was dynamic stuff. The real deal. I’m sure His arms would have been outstretched to Heaven, reaching out to embrace His Dad. On top of Ben Cleuch there’s a trig point – I’m sure Jesus would have been standing on the top to get even closer. They would have shared those wonderful times when the world was created through Him (John 1:3). There would have been a dialogue we can only dream of. Nothing hurried – all night was ok. And Jesus would have received His Dad’s perspectives on the ministry before Him. Returning from the wilderness, His step would have an additional spring to it, propelling Him towards His next task.

So back to my walk, returning from a brief oasis of being alone. Grateful for a short time of prayer. Refreshed spiritually and physically. No earth-shattering revelations, sadly, but a worthwhile time nevertheless.

2 thoughts on “In the Wilderness

  1. Hi Adrian,
    I like the way you describe the surroundings countryside and ambient sounds. Jesus went into the wilderness to pray to be undisturbed whilst alone with his father.
    This is something that is missing from life for so many of us. God’s speaks to us in a quiet voice which until we have learned how to perceive it correctly, is more often drowned out than received and understood.
    The Holy spirit abides within us all the time and yet we hear him speaking so infrequently. There are are however those who do hear God very clearly and display great wisdom and even power over sickness and circumstances. They are greatly revered by the churches an special anointed ones, and even sometimes canonized by the Catholic church. But should we see them as special chosen ones and leave ot at that or could there be more to it. God says that ” all his people will hear his voice.”
    The bible makes it quite clear that God seeks to have an close and intimate and unique relationship with each and every one of us. Yet today so very few have any relationship that comes anywhere close to that. I was once asked if my relationship with my wife had been based on have the same level of quality time with her as I had with God, was I likely to be still married. The sad and honest answer would be no. Unfortunately I don’t think this would apply to just me, but actually to a large proportion of the church today.
    Too many are content to have a second hand relationship with God through their Priest, Minister or Pastor.
    Perhaps those who seem to have a special relationship with God are not just to be revered, but to be engaged and studied by all to see what changes they have made in their lives to enable this special relationship to develop.
    What would happen if we did focus more on developing a relationship with God?
    As many a study has shown, we are most often influenced by the characters we associate with. What if one of those characters was the designer of life, the author of love, and the creator of the Universe? Might we develop an enhanced sense of purpose in our lives and mental illness such as depression would flee. Perhaps our attitudes towards others in all situations would move to considering their feelings and emotions with greater empathy and understanding. Perhaps we ourselves would come to appreciate ourselves and others better as all our universal value becomes apparent. Perhaps we would see more of our prayers answered as we seek the works of the enemy to be removed and replaced by the unstoppable love of God.
    Oh what a wonderful world that would be, when sickness and crime became resigned to the pages of history. Too much you might say? Perhaps, but what if it were possible? Wouldn’t that be motive enough for God’s enemy to ensure we remain too distracted or disaffected to come into such a relationship with God where we might challenge what authority the dark kingdom would still cling onto? We all have a choice. Which one will we choose?


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