The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom… —Isaiah 35:1a
Having lived much of my adult life in the Pacific Northwest, the word wilderness conjures up images of lush foliage, beams of sunlight filtered through stands of tall trees, gentle streams and moss-covered tree stumps.
In late January, I joined 60 intercessors from the ASK Network in another kind of wilderness—the Negev of southern Israel. This is the wilderness of Isaiah 35, a vast expanse of emptiness—nothing but rocks, stones, an occasional boulder and an endless (dry) sea of dirt and sand.
We gathered from over a dozen nations and three generations to pray from Israel for the rest of the world. We asked God to do what only He can do in fulfilling His promises for all peoples. We invited Him to show us how to be a part of His response to our prayers. Over the course of four very full and focused days, our little company of intercessors managed, by God’s grace, to lift up in prayer each of the world’s 195 nations and territories as well as the 6,500+ names of every yet-unreached people group.
Throughout Scripture the wilderness is often a place of testing, and my time in the Negev was no exception. Against a physical backdrop of desolation and dust, could God be capable of raising up enough faith in me to believe that the wilderness before me would one day rejoice and blossom into life? Is it too audacious a prayer to ask and hope for God’s promised peace and reconciliation (Ephesians 2:11–22) from the very land that quite possibly represents the epicenter of hostility between Christians, Muslims and Jews?
We humans all experience some version of the wilderness. During the season of Lent, some of us even choose to set out on a 40-day journey with Jesus in search of the wilderness. Apart from the usual trappings of life with nowhere else to turn, the wilderness can become a natural place of encounters with God—a place where joy and life, possibilities and promise, germinate out of sight.
Some two billion people walking the earth today live without access to the Good News of God’s Kingdom—the message of God’s promised redemption through Christ—in physical, mental and spiritual wilderness settings not uncommon to the human experience yet without hope. As followers of Jesus, we are called to be bearers of hope, messengers of God’s promise: How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns” (Isaiah 52:7).
This Lenten season, I’m fasting from despair and apathy. I’m trying to be more intentional to cultivate hope and to let that hope grow into actions that impact and encourage an agitated world. One of those actions is to make and share a set of fill-in-the-blank Scripture prayer cards, asking boldly for God’s promises to be fulfilled. Would you like a box set for yourself? Let me know—I’d be glad to send you one.
If God, by His power at work within us, is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20), then perhaps it’s time to be more bold and audacious as we ask for God’s Kingdom to come.
The wilderness shall rejoice and blossom!
—Tara Chase, Associate Director