When men are motivated by the desire for success and fame (and fortune?) they demand guarantees...which do not exist. When we are inspired by a deep concern to be obedient, "failure" and "success" become irrelevant concepts. Just the genuine desire to please God by trying our best to do what He wants, can be in itself our achievement, and our reward.
(3) Linked to this point, and deepened, is the truth that often-times a great work of God begins with a single seed "dying" in the earth, but then at a later date "rising again" into unprecedented newness of life.
A most remarkable and (relatively) modern example of this spiritual law is the story of the aristocrat-hermit, Charles de Foucauld (1858-1916, France). Something of a wild man in his youth (a soldier who took his mistress on military campaigns!), de Foucauld ended his days living alone amongst hostile, Islamic tribes in the Sahara Desert. His vision was to evangelise through intercession...ever hoping to provoke his "flock" to ask the great question, "If such is the servant, what must the Master be like?" He was martyred by those he had hoped to "win", and was buried in the sand of the wilderness.
In the eyes of both the world and the Church, his life appeared to have been a failure and a waste. (5) Nevertheless, the globe today is dotted (Greenland, Tanzania, Albania, Vietnam, Israel, PNG etc...) with small groups of men and women who have been inspired by Charles to live amongst "the least, last and lost", utterly devoted to praying for them "not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance". (2 Pe 3.9)
(4) A popular (and largely mythical) view of the 4th C Desert Fathers and Mothers, is of skinny, sun burnt ascetics, clad only in a few strips of animal skin, sitting on top of poles or buried in dank, dark caves. Some indeed were somewhat like that...many were not. In fact it is not an exaggeration to say that there were then almost as many different ways of being a Desert Father as there were Desert Fathers.
In the midst of this plethora of diverse, spiritual activity, I want to zero in on the observation that in those days many Middle Eastern towns and villages were "ring-fenced" by the ramshackle and humble dwellings of those living to pray and praying to live...the sacred and secular lived comfortably side-by-side...intercessors were seeded amongst those they served with their prayers.
I am sure that God is still calling some of his contemplatives and intercessors out into the wilderness. (7) But that is by no means the only "garden" where prayer houses may be planted and bear fruit. Today Carmelite Communities (renowned for their high-octane, mystical prayer) are to be found sequestered in the middle of busy towns. (E.g. In New Zealand, in the suburbs of Auckland and Christchurch.) (6) And Charles de Foucauld's followers (the Little Brothers and the Little Sisters of Jesus) now commonly rent apartments in inner-city, high-rise slums, where they live to pray for their immediate neighbours in tiny groups of three or four.
Prayer houses and civilisation are not antithetical. In fact, they perhaps most of all are called to fulfill the Lord's ordinance and be leaven to raise the bread of the Church, and salt to preserve the rotting flesh of the world. (Mt 13.33 & 5.13)