For those Christians unfamiliar with the Church calendar this week we began the season of Lent, that penitential period of self-denial that prepares the believer for Holy Week leading to Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. Accompanying this 40-days of purposeful penitence is repentance, fasting, almsgiving, penance, and prayer.
Before we go further, are you Lenting for 2015? (Is that a word? I vote make it so!) If so, what are you fasting from during this season? (Let us know with comment!)
Check out this wordle of the top things people are giving up this year for Lent 2014:
What a list! I’m not sure the thousands of teenagers or college students who added school to their Lenten journey will get away with it, but many of these are spot on.
So what about you? What are you giving up for the 40-days leading to Holy Week in order to draw closer to the side of your Savior? (PS—Keep reading, because I’ve got a 99¢ deal to help you get the most out of Lent this year!)
The first time I engaged in the Lenten season was on, of all places, Capitol Hill. I was working for a ministry to Members of Congress and their staff—a pastor to politicians of sorts—when some of my staffer friends and I chose to meet for a half hour every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning in order to center ourselves around the person and work of Jesus during this holy season. This was no small feat during the height of the Congressional year, which is defined by long work days, short deadlines, and even shorter tempers!
To help guide our time we used the ancient practice of fixed-hour prayer (which later inspired a city-focused prayer book I edited). Our own practice was a drastically pared down version to accommodate the break-neck speed of the hustle-and-bustle of Capitol Hill. But even with this condensed version combined with the Lenten experience something—I dare say, magical—happened: We all experienced a deeper spiritual grounding and relationship with God in our life rhythm by participating in the rhythm of the historic Church.
That’s what Lent does: It grounds us in a story bigger than ourselves.
It reorients us around the self-giving, self-denying event of Christ on those blood-soaked boards of execution waiting for us at the end of Lent’s winding journey—all in community.
If you aren’t participating, might I suggest something? If you’ve never experienced the power of Lent, this year join the global Church by engaging this ancient, anchoring practice. It’s not too late to start!
I know as an evangelical when I first participated, I felt like a fish out of water. That’s OK. Here are the basics to get you started: Beginning on Wednesday, start fasting from something in your normal life-rhythm, Monday through Saturday; Throughout the week engage in self-denial by giving up something like chocolate, alcohol, Facebook, TV or any number of things that you think would be good for your soul to do without leading up to Holy Week.
Want to ratchet your Lent experience up a notch?
Here’s a challenge to take your Lent experience one step further—particularly for the person who is a “seasoned” Lenten veteran: Along with giving something up add something to your life rhythm.
Rather than simply giving up something as an act of self-denial, traditionally Lent observers are encouraged to add daily penance, repentance, and prayer. And during this season I’ve got a bonus to help you do just that:
I’ve put my Prayers for My City prayer book on sale! I reduced the ebook price to $0.99 this week only for Lent to help re-orient and ground you during this holy season by helping you pray for your city along with the Church using the ancient practice of fixed-hour prayer. It is available today for Kindle, iPad, Nook, and Kobo ereaders.
Here’s the 411 on this unique prayerbook:
For thousands of years, the Church has gathered during the day to praise God, confess sin, and pray for themselves and others, both in community and individually. Recently, however, commitment to ancient spiritual practices has waned and prayer is considered a waste of time.
Prayers for My City sets out to recapture the power of fixed-hour prayer for 21st century America by helping the Church reconnect to this ancient spiritual practice. Through this highly accessible and simple prayer format, you can engage in this historic Church practice while also praying for your community.
This prayer book isn’t just any prayer book–it’s America’s prayer book. It’s a guide to help you pray for your hometown with others in one voice, while helping you stay connected to your Creator and Redeemer throughout the day. Pray for your city while finding an oasis in the middle of the chaos of life.
Prayer Book Includes:
- Three 15-minute daily prayer sessions
- Twenty-one prayers for your city
- Liturgical prayers from The Book of Common Prayer
- Historic hymn meditations
- One-year Bible reading plans
Regardless of how you journey through these next 40 days, may you experience the power of Christ’s self-denial like never before. May the journey toward that self-denying act change you. And may these four articles enclosed below inform and encourage that journey along the way.
Grace and Peace,