Why are we afraid of desert time? Why are we afraid and sometimes resistant to prayer time, to the quiet alone time with God?
Experienced teachers on prayer, like Fr. Ron Rolheiser, suggest that the desert “is the place where one does battle with Satan.” (Our Deepest Longing, pg. 53) Within our solitude we face our demons head on, and we are confronted by all of our baggage and dark spots. We resist going into the silence and quiet because we do not like what we see there.
Desert time is vital to a mature relationship with God. If we are committed men and women of faith, then God is going to bring us to the desert at some point to look deeply at ourselves and see all of us the way God sees us. This means we will have to confront the dark spots of our lives and the things we do our best to hide from God and from the rest of the world.
Jesus was no different. He was “led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.” (Luke 4:1–2). Jesus faced Satan and “then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.” (Matthew 4:11) We face Satan and our own temptations in our desert time, just as Jesus did. And just as Jesus was not alone in his desert battle, we are not alone either.
As we continue on our Lenten journey, let us be led by the Spirit to have the courage to head into the desert as Jesus did. We pray that during these weeks of Lent, God will strengthen us in our weakness the way Jesus was strengthened. As St. Paul reminds us, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Jesus’ time in the desert prepared him to begin his public ministry. When we leave our desert time and confront our demons with God’s help, we are stronger. It is in the desert time—our time of prayer, solitude, and aloneness with God—that God readies us for our next steps.