Sunday, March 6, 2022

Praying in the Wilderness


Judean Wilderness

First Sunday in Lent

  • Deuteronomy 26:1-11 
  • Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16 
  • Romans 10:8b-13
  • Luke 4:1-13

Passages like these are in the Bible for times like this.  They bolster our faith, hope, and love in the face of devastating adversity. They give us direction in the midst of global confusion. They invite us to center ourselves spiritually in preparation for whatever challenges we may face in the coming days and weeks.

Notes for sermon preached on March 6, 2021 at Briensburg UMC | [Audio]

After Jesus was Baptized

And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,     (Luke 4:1 KJV)

·       Into the Wilderness

o   Eremos [air’ ay moss] (per Strong’s Lexicon) among the definitions of wilderness are:

§  solitary, lonely, desolate, uninhabited

§  deprived of the aid and protection of others,

·       Think of over 82 million refugees around the world and growing daily, even before the invasion of Ukraine

·       Think of victims of war, oppression, natural disasters, and any number of issues that bring suffering and destruction to individuals and communities

·       Think about the hardships experienced every day by individuals and families with inadequate incomes, health care issues, violence, and a whole range of socio-economic disparities and injustices.

o   Wilderness can be more about a state of existence in addition to a geographic location

o   In wilderness circumstances, the temptation to twist or abandon our faith when we are in our wilderness times is much like what Jesus faced in his wilderness time:

§  People are tempted to apply the promises of God in self-serving ways

·       But: “It is written,” [we] “shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God” (vs 4)

§  People are tempted to make up their own interpretations of God’s promises and then expect God to abide by whatever distortions they produce at any given time

·       But: ”Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” (vs 12)

§  People are tempted to doubt the promises of God and put their trust elsewhere

·       But: “It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” (vs 8)

·       Led by the Spirit

·       Full of the Holy Ghost

Universal Salvation

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.      (Romans 10:13 KJV)

·       Whosoever

o   Invitation extended to everyone at all times

·       Call on the name of the Lord

·       Shall be saved

o   One dimension of salvation is our justification, when we placed our trust in God

§  Began our own personal spiritual transformation

§  Entered into spiritual relationship with God and each other

§  Our spiritual senses were awakened to realities beyond our physical existence

o   Another dimension of salvation is our sanctification, when we felt ourselves enveloped by God’s eternal and unconditional love

§  We are drawn to a sacramental life of prayer, Bible study, worship, & fellowship

§  We strive to love others as profoundly and freely as God in Christ has loved us

§  We examine our own lives to identify ways we can improve the love we are offering to be more like the love we are receiving

o   Divine Grace encompasses every aspect of salvation

§  God extends wholeness and love to all humanity

§  As we realize how much we are benefiting from God’s goodness, we extend the same encouragement and support to everyone else around us, as we are able,

§  We honor the Image of God in each person, sharing faith and spiritual conversation in ways that enable us to nurture each other in God’s Love.


Trust God for Safety

You who sit down in the High God’s presence,

    spend the night in Shaddai’s shadow,

Say this: “God, you’re my refuge.

    I trust in you and I’m safe!”    (Psalm 91:1 MSG)


·       Those who “Dwelleth in the secret place of the most High

o   Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty

·       God is our refuge and fortress

o   Difficult to comprehend when so many who are “abiding under the shadow of the almighty” are anything but safe at this moment.

o   For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. (Psalm 91:11 KJV)

§  No evil will befall thee (vs 10)

§  Neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling (vs 10)

§  Several other verses with promises that seem to say nothing bad will happen

o   For interpretation: Look to the cross… look to Jesus

§  Jesus went through temptation “at every point we do but without sin”

§  Jesus experienced the cross, praying “not my will but Thine be done”

§  All of the apostles and countless faithful believers since have experienced unspeakable hardships

·       Yet with them, we continue to affirm “In God We Trust”

o   We trust our prayers to be effective in not just pleading for help but also

§  In providing spiritual girding and assistance and direction and strength when we are unable to participate more directly and substantively in offering relief

§  Our spirits are connected in prayer with each other throughout the body of Christ

§  We grow deeper in self discovery and in our relationship with our Creator

o   We trust God to show us our part in contributing to the solutions to the problems and issues we face in our own lives and around the world

o   We trust God’s over-arching Grace to overcome evil with good and deliver suffering humanity into a re-created world of justice and peace and perfect love.


Trust God for Deliverance

And God took us out of Egypt

    with his strong hand and long arm, terrible and great,

    with signs and miracle-wonders.

    And he brought us to this place,

    gave us this land flowing with milk and honey.     (Deuteronomy 26:8-9 MSG)


·       In the wilderness, pray

o   for Deliverance from oppression

o   for the Outstretched arm of Almighty God to provide “great power, signs and wonders”

o   for those who are suffering will be Brought to a place “flowing with milk and honey”

·       For those going through suffering and injustice, its harder to claim these promises so we who are suffering less must claim these promises for those who are suffering more.

·       After Jesus went through these temptations, Matthew’s Gospel says, “Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.” (vs 11)


May this season of Lent be a time of spiritual renewal for each of us, and may the outward physical realm be transformed to reflect the inward spiritual realm.

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