When planning the worship series “A Table in the Wilderness” (see p. 3) and this outdoor prayer path, we were in the midst of a global pandemic. While the pandemic may not be making front-page news any more, we still wrestle with its effects, and as the news cycle has moved on, so we too face different but possibly no less disturbing challenges. How do we journey through the wilderness of our current context, and what can we learn from individuals throughout Scripture who found themselves in the literal wilderness?
This “Journey in the Wilderness” prayer path with stations can be done regardless of your plans for Lenten worship, but it originated in conjunction with the worship series “A Table in the Wilderness” (p. 3). If the weather in your area is unfavorable for an outdoor path, this journey can be adapted for use inside your church building. You are also encouraged to edit the text to reflect challenges in your current context.
Footprints painted in our parking lot led people from station to station. The first stop on the journey was a welcome message from the pastor explaining the prayer stations and inviting individuals to participate in other Lent worship opportunities. A template for this welcome message can be found at tinyurl.com/RW146Stations.
Each station had a wooden bench and a wooden cross with a laminated poster attached. On each poster was a piece of artwork with a descriptive title and a short sentence related to that station’s Scripture text. The artwork we used was by Brother Martin Erspamer, a Benedictine liturgical artist from St. Meinrad Abbey in Indiana. That resource is no longer available, but an online search should turn up art you can use (some is free, but other artwork will need to be purchased). Below is an outline of the prayer stations, with art suggestions from the editors of Reformed Worship.
A printed guide was available to lead individuals as they prayed and reflected at each station; if participants had a smartphone they could listen to an audio guide accessible via the QR code on each station’s poster. The audio guide was linked to a printed version posted on the church’s website.
The print and audio guides included an opening prayer, a Scripture text connected to the Scripture used in worship, reflection questions, a word from Christ, and a closing prayer. New prayer stations were added weekly to match the Sunday worship text (one station per week, plus one each for Good Friday and Easter Sunday). Individuals were encouraged to return often, each time starting at the beginning, thus slowly extending their journey and time in prayer each week.
After the final station, “A Table on the Beach for Us,” which was added on Easter, footprints led individuals to a large wooden table on the church’s front lawn that had the words “All are welcome at the table of God” around its edges. Colorful plastic placemats were fixed to the top, with an invitation for people to write with provided markers their prayers and words of gratitude for God’s provision. In the center we placed a large bouquet of yellow flowering branches. The benches from each station were gathered and placed around the table.
An example of a station poster is on p. 14. The text for the first station as it appeared in the printed guide is on p. 15. A template for all the other stations and the welcome poster are at tinyurl.com/RW146Stations.
Prayer Stations with Art Suggestions
This outline of the prayer path includes suggestions for art, most of which were available for churches to use for free when this issue was printed. However, you are responsible for ensuring you have the necessary legal permission to use whatever artwork you use and to make sure the appropriate author and copyright information accompany each image.
I. A Table in the Wilderness for Jesus: “Temptation in the Wilderness,” Briton Rivière
II. A Table in the Wilderness for Israel: “The Gathering of the Manna,” James Jacques Joseph Tissot
III. A Table in the Wilderness for Hagar: “Son of Hagar,” Frank Wesley
IV. A Table in the Wilderness for Elijah: “Prophet Elijah in the Wilderness,” Dieric Bouts
V. A Table in the Wilderness for David: “David fordert von Nabal,” Anonymous
VI. A Table in the Wilderness for a Hungry Crowd: “Jesús multiplica los panes,” Rodrigo Fernández
VII. A Table in the Wilderness for Our Savior (Good Friday): “Christ on Gethsemane,” JESUS MAFA
VIII. A Table on the Beach for Us (Easter): “Breakfast on the Beach,” Peter Koenig
Print Guide for First Prayer Station
The text for the other prayer stations is available for download at tinyurl.com/RW146Stations.
I. A Table in the Wilderness for Jesus
O Lord, can you really spread a table in the wilderness of life? Walk with me as I walk this path of the cross with honest questions of life in my heart and my face turned to find the table you have spread in the wilderness for so many before me, and now also for me. Amen.
At that time, Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him (Mark 1:9–13).
[Insert wondering questions about the Scripture text and/or picture you are using, or use the following:]
Jesus’ baptism must have been a spiritual highlight for him.
Why did the Spirit then immediately send him into the wilderness?
What do I notice and feel as I look at this picture?
How lonely and tempted am I?
Can God really provide a table in the wilderness of loneliness and temptation?
Christ Speaks: Words of Encouragement
Take heart, my child. I will not let the cross you bear grow beyond your endurance.
My Father attends you. He is your Father too.
All that is needed God’s hands will provide.
We adore you, O Christ,
and we bless you because by your life,
your death, and your resurrection
you have shown us how God always spreads
a table in the wilderness
in the face of all our fears.