Ever notice how, in the Bible, whenever the Lord’s servants are about to go out and conquer the world for Him, they first have a time of desert preparation? I am convinced that it is a biblical principle of evangelization – really, of all discipleship – that the disciple (or disciples) of Christ must spend time in prayer, in isolation, waiting for the Lord to equip and send him (or them) out to do His work.
This is a necessary part of the fact that it is not we who chose God, but He us; that we did not love Him first, but He us; that we do not speak our own words, but what we hear the Father telling us; that we do not send ourselves, but Christ sends us. Skipping the many Old Testament examples, we have John the Baptist, who spent his whole childhood in the wilderness before beginning his preaching; we have the Apostles and disciples with the Virgin Mary, who stayed in the upper room in constant prayer until the Holy Spirit came upon them, equipping and sending them to spread the Gospel; we have St. Paul, who, after being converted on the road to Damascus, spent time in Arabia (Gal. 1:17), presumably to pray, before beginning his great ministry of preaching to the Gentiles. And let’s not forget Our Blessed Lord’s forty days of prayer and fasting in the desert, as well as his quiet, humble years of growing up – his “hidden life” with the Holy Family in Nazareth.
I am convinced that we, as evangelizers, need to do the same. Not only do we need to soak our evangelizing efforts in prayer and sacrifice, but we ourselves need to be “soaked” with the Holy Spirit, especially those of us who spend a lot of time with this apostolate, who believe that this apostolate is a particularly important vocation in our lives. Christian discipleship is not just about doing things that the Lord calls his disciples to do, it is about doing them in Him, through Him, by Him, and because of His genuine, concrete calling.
So how can we act on this biblical principle? I’m not saying that we ought to stop evangelizing until we’ve experienced some kind of profound encounter with the Holy Spirit which impels us to go out and evangelize again. What I am saying is that we all, in accordance with our particular callings, ought to seek out opportunities to have “desert time” with the Lord. This could be accomplished simply by increasing daily prayer time, or by seeking more meditation, silence and contemplation in prayer, or by going on a weekend retreat. Or you could – why not? – take advantage of this Christmas break and spent the whole week before or after Christmas alone and doing nothing but praying (and, of course, taking care of the essentials of life: eating, washing, etc.). It seems to me that such boldness is needed in our times when we are surrounded by distractions, when it is almost impossible to keep the world out of our hearts.
Perhaps you can organize a group of evangelizers to go on a guided or unguided retreat? Perhaps you could go to a state or national park to pray in the wilderness? Perhaps you could lock yourself in your room for an evening each week?
Oh yeah, you probably want to bring a bible, and a book of spiritual reading – even though you will be spending most of your time in silence; waiting, listening…….
Behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high. …
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven … And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak…
(Luke 24:49; Acts 2:1-2,4).