Session 1: A place of preparation

In our busy world and busy lives, it can take a bit of effort to find a place of quiet, of stillness. Strangely, one good way to begin doing this can be to become more aware of the noise around you. So, begin this time of prayer by naming for yourself all the different things that you can hear at this time – the sound of traffic, people’s voices, the wind in the trees, the hum of electric lights. How many sounds can you name, as you pay attention to each in turn?

When you’ve listed all the sounds that you can, simply let your attention move away from them. Don’t try too hard to block them out! Just let them carry on around you, but let your own attention move to the scripture that you’re about to hear from the prophet Isaiah…

Isaiah 40: 3 – 5

A voice cries out:
‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’

This passage starts abruptly, and a little oddly: “A voice cries out”. Whose voice? We’re not told. Later, John the Baptist would make these words his own. But for now, as presented by the prophet Isaiah, we don’t know who is speaking. But what’s your first impression of this voice and its message? Does it sound inviting, or threatening, or intriguing? Or what?

The voice speaks of the construction of a great road, sweeping across the countryside, letting nothing get in its way. Perhaps you can picture a road like this, a motorway or freeway in your own country. Take a moment to imagine the scene.

This is no ordinary road, though. It is called “the way of the Lord”. The prophet expects that God will be the one to travel on this road, coming to meet his people. Nothing will be allowed to get in the way of this meeting. How does the prospect of God coming towards you like this sound?

Isaiah doesn’t expect this to be an individual meeting, but something that all the people share. Think for a moment of your friends, your family, your neighbours, joining you on this highway to God. Does that change your feelings about being there?

The passage starts with a voice making an announcement. A voice invites a conversation. What’s the first thing that you’d want to say with your own voice to the voice that the prophet hears?

This voice promises that God will come to meet his people, will come to meet you, and nothing will be allowed to stand in his way. Take a moment to tell God how you feel about the prospect of a meeting like this.

Maybe this passage makes you more aware of obstacles that do seem to stand between you and God. If it does, speak to the God who is promising to sweep those obstacles away.

As this time of prayer comes to an end, think what final words you, your friends, family and neighbours might want to say to God on this open road.

Session 1: A place of preparation
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