Session 1: The Desert | Preparing for prayer
When you begin a time of prayerful reflection, it’s always worth taking a few moments to become more still, more silent, more focussed. There are different ways of doing this, and you may already know one that suits you well. Spend a little time becoming conscious of the sensations of different parts of your own body. It doesn’t matter whether you’re sitting in a comfortable chair, lying down, or walking. First be aware of the feeling of your feet, the shoes that surround them or the ground they press against. It can help to wiggle your toes at this point!
Then work your way up through your body – from your legs, your hips, your torso, your arms and hands, to your face and scalp. Let the feeling of each part register with you, and only move on when it has done so.
When you’ve reached your head, let your attention return to your feet, and move slowly again through your body once or twice.
Then, when you’re ready, let that point of attention come to rest, somewhere at the centre of yourself.
It’s from that quiet centre that you can now listen to this sessions scripture passage from the Gospel of Matthew… Following the reading, we invite you pause and use our supplementary Lectio Divina guide to help you meditate on the scripture in a deeper way.
Reading: Matthew 4:1-11
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ But he answered, ‘It is written,
“One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” ’
Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,
“He will command his angels concerning you”,
and “On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.” ’
Jesus said to him, ‘Again it is written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” ’
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour; and he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! for it is written,
“Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.” ’
Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.
Jesus refused every temptation the devil put before him. He would not work wonders for himself or test God or indulge in false worship.
• In this session’s reading, we hear about the temptations of Jesus. He has gone into the desert. The desert was a place where, according to the prophet Hosea, God lured Israel in order to speak tenderly to her (Hosea 2:14): the desert is where we meet God.
• But the desert is also a place of testing: it was in the desert, God tells his people, that their ancestors tested him (Psalm 95:9). Israel was in the desert for forty years (Deuteronomy 8:2); Jesus was in the desert for forty days.
• In the desert, Jesus lived in God’s presence. He had just heard the voice of God speaking at his baptism and it was the Spirit of God that brought him there. When we hear Jesus speak, he quotes words that God spoke through Moses in Deuteronomy (8:3; 6:13, 16).
• But he was also tempted and tested by the devil: ‘if you are the Son of God’, the devil taunted him, just as his enemies would mock him when later he hung on the cross (Matthew 27:40). But Jesus refused every temptation the devil put before him. He would not work wonders for himself or test God or indulge in false worship.
Talk to God
• Lent for all of us is a period when we are to live closer to God. We pray that we may deepen our understanding of our own Christian calling and dignity. You might like to take a moment now to pray this for yourself…
• Because of our baptism, we are all children of God. We know, as Jesus knew, that we do not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. Have you heard a particular word “from the mouth of God” in today’s session? Perhaps during your time of Lectio Divina… Talk to God as one friend speaks to another about what has been stirring in you today…
• We do not put ourselves in situations from which only God can rescue us, and we do not worship anything or anyone but God alone. Is there a particular grace or consolation you hope to encounter on this Lenten journey? Spend a moment in reflection as this session comes to an end…