Many Christians have heard of Lent, but do all know what it means? According to Merriam-Webster, Lent means “the 40 weekdays from Ash Wednesday (Feb. 26, 2020) to Easter observed by the Roman Catholic, Eastern, and some Protestant churches as a period of penitence and fasting.”
Lent is meant to be a time of repentance. That’s not a feeling of shame, but an awareness that sin separates us from God and of what it cost Him to be reunited with us. “Shame has its place, but feeling shame over sin is not the same thing as repentance from sin” because “our tempter can take our obedience to God and turn it into a source of pride.”
Greater intimacy with God is the reward of sacrifice. These 40 days are set aside to praise and worship the Lord; to read the Bible more, and to pray more often. Christians who observe Lent correctly anticipate deeper intimacy with the Lord, which is the blessing; they do not expect rewards such as more favorable answers to prayer or the resolution of health concerns, although many Christians have reported that, following Lent, they experience freedom from long-standing issues.
How to practice Lent:
1. Name the pressing sin. Christians are taught to begin the 40-day period by confessing sins they would like Christ to remove; to “really examine areas of recurring sin” which are a hurdle to “being conformed to God’s will.”
2. Partner with other Christians. Devoted friends encourage each other to be specific in their prayers and help one another seek Christ’s strength to stay the course.
3. One’s “fast” should feel like a sacrifice, but not religious duty. Nor should the fast be dangerous to one’s health. Consider giving up one meal a day, a regular treat, coffee, or alcohol. Other sacrifices include increased charitable giving, staying away from social media, service to the community, or memorizing scripture.
4. Time with God is critical. Quiet and solitude enable one to listen to the Spirit and discern answers to prayer. Before the noisy corporate rejoicing of Easter Sunday, create opportunities for peaceful contemplation and intimacy with the Father. No matter how prayers are answered at the end of 40 days-no, yes, or wait-time with the Lord is cause for joy, praise, and thanks.