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Preparing for Lent

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and covers a period of approximately six weeks before Easter Sunday.

The traditional purpose of Lent is preparation through prayer, penance, repentance of sins, giving and self-denial. During Lent, many Christians commit to fasting or giving up certain luxuries as a form of penitence. We may also add a spiritual discipline, such as reading the Bible or a devotional.

In other words, Lent is an opportunity to pause from the intensity of daily living and reflect on the meaning of Christ’s life, death and resurrection. Sounds simple enough, but I often come up short.

The following prayer by Robin Van Cleef describes the difficulties of attempting to deepen your spiritual life:

Lord, I sense my need of you, yet — I am not quite sure how to reach you.

I heard someone say, ‘Read your Bible.’ But too often the words are like bullets that ricochet off my brain.

I heard someone say, ‘Pray.’

But my prayers, hurled heaven ward, fall back to earth like lifeless stones. I

heard someone say, ‘Meditate.’

But my wandering mind was lost in a desert of random thoughts.

“Lord, I sense my need of you… But…”

I know I need to strengthen my relationship with God, but I still struggle in the daily discipline. I eagerly read the newspaper, then put off studying God’s Holy Word. I pray and wonder if anyone is listening. Meditation seems painfully inadequate in the midst of a busy day.

Lord, speak to me through your Word.

Let it penetrate my mind and my heart.

Lord, speak to me through Prayer, and turn the lifeless stones to bread.

Lord, speak to me in my Meditation, that I may see, amid life’s wilderness:

The way, the truth and the life.

Lent reminds us: Don’t give up. Keep trying.

Spiritual growth seldom happens naturally but requires a conscious investment of time and energy. Lent is a reminder of why that investment is important. We pause to remember the life and death of Jesus to more fully appreciate the resurrection. Possible ideas include joining a Bible study or setting aside time to pray. When you experience setbacks, the Bible offers guidance and hope.

Don’t be impatient for the Lord to act! Travel steadily along His path. He will honor you. (Ps38:34)

Think clearly and exercise self-control. Look forward to the special blessings. (1 Peter 2:13)

One day soon afterward Jesus went to a mountain to pray and he prayed to God all night. At daybreak, He chose 12 disciples. (Luke 6:12)

Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit. Stay alert and be persistent. (Ephesians 6:18)

God teaches: “Don’t be impatient. Travel steadily. Think clearly and exercise self-control. Pray first. Pray at all times. Stay alert and be persistent.”

God promises: “I will honor you. Look forward to special blessings. I will help you make choices. I will provide power through the Holy Spirit.”

Lord, speak to me through your Word. Let it penetrate my mind and my heart.

Lord, speak to me through prayer, and turn the lifeless stones to bread.

Lord, speak to me in my meditation, that I may see, amid life’s wilderness:

The way, the truth and the life.

Deepening your relationship with God requires an investment of time, patience and persistence but your investment will bear fruit. God promises: “I will honor you. Look forward to special blessings. I will help you make choices. I will provide power through the Holy Spirit.”

What is Lent? Lent is God’s precious gift for you, ready to open, enjoy and experience. Amen.

REV. LARRY E. DAVIES can be reached at larrydavies@vaumc.org.