Most Christians I know have at least heard of Lent, but you’re not alone if you would have trouble explaining to someone else what it is all about. Lent is a season of the Christian calendar that begins on Ash Wednesday (this year it’s February 10) and ends several weeks later, on Easter Sunday. Historically, Lent involves 40 days of prayer, fasting, reflection and preparation modeled after the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness before beginning his ministry (Matthew 4:1-11). Not to get too technical, but there are actually 46 days from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday—it’s just that many traditions don’t count the six Sundays in there as they are considered to be “mini-Easters” and therefore aren’t considered fasting days.
So…the 40 days of Lent. What do they mean for us as believers, especially for those of us who didn’t grow up Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran or in some other denomination that emphasized the Church calendar or the “Lenten Season”?
Put simply, Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. Jesus’ message all along was, “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15). And so Lent is a time of self-examination and reflection as we prepare to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. It’s a season when we pause to ask, “God, is there anything in my life—in my actions, patterns or priorities—that You want to change in me to make me more like Jesus?”
With that in mind, here are some suggestions you might consider to help you better reflect, repent and prepare for Easter.
1) Commit to reading Scripture every day for the 40 days of Lent. The simplest approach would be to read through one of the Gospel accounts in Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. You can also find several great Lent and Easter devotionals and Bible Plans on the Bible App. A few we might recommend are: Preparing Our Hearts for Easter, Lent for Everyone, Lent Journey, Our Daily Bread: The Promise of Easter
2) Practice some kind of a fast. Some Christians use the whole 40 days to fast from candy, pop, alcohol, or meat as a way to purify their bodies and lives. You might skip one meal a day or one meal a week and use that time to pray instead. Some choose to fast from technology: TV or social media, for example. The point is that we’re choosing to give up something in order to help us focus on God.
3) Pray. Spend time each day in prayer, inviting God to work in a unique way in and through and around you this season. I believe God hears and answers our prayers, but of course, no less significant is the fact that prayer increases our awareness of His presence and activity in our lives.
4) Be creative. The point isn’t necessarily to do what someone else is doing, or to check a bunch of things off of a list in the name of church tradition. Chances are, you know better than anyone else what your soul is needing in this season. Maybe for you it’s keeping a journal. Perhaps it’s committing to serve someone else one hour a week.
The point of these 40 days is to intentionally put ourselves in a position to allow God to speak into our lives. My prayer is that 40 days from now, having fully entered into this season, we are better prepared to celebrate and respond to the reality of the Resurrection.