Like Advent, Lent is a season of expectancy…because we know Sunday is coming! We spend this season recalling and remembering and revisiting the sacrifice of Jesus and what awaits us at the end is glorious triumph! Resurrection!
Lent is a time of reflection for believers, and begins today on Ash Wednesday. Some choose to fast, some choose to exercise repentance in various forms, some commit to do things for others (almsgiving) but it’s certain we are called to refocus on our relationship with Christ. The 40 days of Lent, which directly precede Easter, are representative of the time Jesus spent in the wilderness fasting and praying, facing temptations from Satan himself. Lent is the beginning of the celebration of Jesus’ triumph over sin and death! It’s a time when we recognize our mortality as humans, repent of our sins and return to our Heavenly Father in loving relationship, recognizing his great sovereignty.
I’ve been participating in the SMC Women’s Ministry online Bible Study through Facebook: Growing Through Prayer (if you want to join us, send me a message, or post a note on the SMC Women’s Ministry page). This has probably prepared me more for Lent than anything else I’ve done or could do (and let’s be honest, fasting is not my idea of a good time as it would push me beyond my limits of extending grace and mercy…#hangry). What I’ve learned is that I am not alone in my struggle to “turn off” the world around me and really focus on my Good, Good Father. I’ve also learned some really valuable lessons on how to do my relationship with God better. As we move into Lent, I’d like to share with you a few nuggets I’ve gleaned from the Facebook Bible Study group.
If Lent is about giving something up, making a sacrifice, then what could I give up that would be meaningful and reflective? One of the ladies suggested, as a means of getting into morning quiet time with God, that I could employ a Prayer Journal – instead of standing over the coffee pot waiting for the magic to happen, I could use that time to sit, be still (my word for 2016) and write out my prayers to God. “Be still before the Lord; and wait patiently for Him” (Psalm 37: 7 NIV). I could spend that time I might normally sit down in front of a screen to catch up on world news (and let’s be honest, Facebook) to get into conversation with my Heavenly Father. This will further grow that relationship. Getting that early start sets the tone. Jesus gave the ultimate sacrifice for me. Surely I can sacrifice some of myself and my time for Him, even when it’s hard or I’m tired. “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35 NIV). He shows us how…and it *is* awfully solitary in my kitchen before sunrise each morning. Just me and my coffeemaker. The ladies of Proverbs 31 Ministries have captured just that notion with their First 5 app – you give the app the First 5 minutes of your day and they will give you 5 minutes of meaningful, focused time with Jesus.
Part of praying is also trusting. “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life” (MSG). IF I believe God is who He says He is, then I must put my mess down at the foot of the cross. He’ll take it from me and He’ll handle it for me. How could I more easily slip into the habit of doing this?
One of the ladies said it best: “Prayer is like breathing.” She’s absolutely right. If Lent is about making a sacrifice to honor Jesus, then I can sacrifice my self-reliance and I can use time spent in worry or fear or apathy in prayer and I can do it with frequent regularity. A big part of what we do when we prayer is submit. We submit to God. We submit our bodies with bowed heads, open hands, kneeling (however you pray). In turn, we are submitting our hearts and minds to listen. If I can more frequently be still and “Pray…like breathing” then I will certainly be more connected to my Lord. “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess his name” (Hebrews 13:15 NIV). This is what Lent is to me.
In the car, we listen to KLOVE. I was reminded this morning that Lent is kind of like taking that 30-day challenge with KLOVE–you know, where you commit to listen to nothing but Christian music for 30 days? I have tried this, and in my humble opinion, it works wonders.
However you honor Lent, honor Lent. Let our great God be your guide. He loves you, and He desires a closer relationship with you. I can’t wait for EASTER!!! In the meantime, I will be still, and I will pray, and I will further my relationship with our Jesus.