The season of Christmas has come and gone. Epiphany and the first season of Ordinary Time have come and is now passing by quickly. Next week will bring the start of a new season and a new focus, Lent.
This preparatory season begins with Ash Wednesday and lasts up until that glorious morning where we celebrate Christ’s defeat over the grave and triumphant rise from the grave.
But in these days leading up to Easter, we take stock of our lives, contemplating and practicing what it means to take up our cross and follow Jesus. It is a season where we, with John the Baptist, say, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30, ESV).
There are days where we must surrender ourselves, again, at the foot of the cross. Traditionally, this has been done through 3 ways: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
I read recently a writer who said she rejected all Lenten practices because these were things she must be doing always. While I believe her heart was seeking to honor God, I think she was foolishly mistaken as to the “why” of practicing these things in earnest for a specific season.
I know that I need to pray more just as I know that fasting and almsgiving need to be more central parts of living out my faith.
Lent gives me an opportunity to set measurable, meaningful goals in these areas that are time specific. It is widely recognized that having measurable, specific, and time-bound goals is the way to achieve success. Lent gives us an opportunity to walk through a season together as a Church where we do just that.
So for believers, this is a wonderful season to re-center ourselves around Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf.
Take time to examine your heart and motivations during prayer. Are you seeking to bless God or are you simply asking God to play genie and grant your wishes? Ask the Holy Spirit to convict you to pray in the same manner in which He intercedes for you before the Father.
Perhaps try to incorporate a new prayer practice during these next 40 days. Whether it is praying on your knees, audibly, with prayer beads, or through a written journal, there are many ways you can center your heart and remind yourself of your priorities in prayer. Find a written prayer that speaks to you and commit to praying it each day during Lent. For many years, the Psalms inspired my prayer life. That could be a wonderful place to begin. If you don’t regularly pray the Lord’s Prayer, I would encourage you to consider adding it to your morning or evening routine for this season.
Check out my latest post on cultivating a private prayer life here.
Fasting isn’t about depriving yourself to please God, it is about reminding yourself to realign your hungers so that you remember that above all else, you are sustained by the Bread of Life.
Taking 40 days to fast is off of Christ’s fasting in the wilderness before beginning His public ministry. Fasting spiritually strengthens us. Even Christ was strengthened during His time fasting. To neglect this spiritual discipline is foolish.
So pray and choose something to abstain from in these next 40 days. I highly encourage you to choose a food item to fast from as a reminder that we do not live on food, but on the Bread of Life. Many Churches abstain from meat or animal products during this time. For many of us, coffee is a staple part of our daily routine that would be grievously missed. We would do well to use this season to remind ourselves to seek after God daily with the same devotion.
Check out my spiritual disciplines post on fasting resources here.
We all know that faith without works is dead. We know that, when we stand at the Pearly Gates, Christ will ask how we have welcomed, fed, clothed, and served others in His name.
Paul’s letter to Timothy instructed women of God to clothe themselves in good works. Our devotion to good works should be as noticeable as the clothes we are wearing.
Taking a season to reevaluate our schedules and see where we carve out time to serve the least of these is an important part of the Christian walk. Many believers take the money saved from fasting and devote it to charitable organizations.
Setting aside time in Lent to serve allows us to embrace the habit of serving as a short-term goal helps us embrace the habit of regularly seeking to serve.
Call your local church if you are unsure of where to serve and ask the deacons if there is a tangible way you can support their ministry. Ask if there is someone who is shut in and could use company or a meal. Seek to open your home in hospitality. Call a prison ministry or local right to life chapter and ask what you can do to help aid their ministries with your time. Take time either individually or with your family to regularly serve your community as the hands and feet of Christ.
Check out this post for more on the Christian call to serve here.
Take a morning to pray and ask the Lord to guide you this Lent. Seek to build up intentional practices that will help you daily live out your calling to take up your cross and live as Christ exemplified.
To aid you in this discernment and to help you keep yourself accountable, I have created a printable guide to help you determine and write out how you will practice the disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving this Lent. Sign-up below to receive free access to The Thin Place Resource Library and the printable Lenten worksheet.
May we all walk through this season with the love that Christ has lavished upon us.