The word “Lent” comes from the Old English word læncte, meaning “spring, springtime, or lengthening.” It’s the time of year when the days are getting longer and the darkness is slowly retreating.
Lent is the 40-day period of the Church’s liturgical calendar beginning on Ash Wednesday and leading up to Easter (not including Sundays). This duration reminds us of and reflects the 40-day fast and temptation of Jesus in the wilderness (see Matthew 4:1-2; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-2).
Lent is to Good Friday and Easter what Advent is to Christmas. Just as Advent prepares us for the birth/arrival of our Savior-King, Lent prepares us for his death and resurrection. We acknowledge that the darkness is real, but the light is coming.
For generations, this season has been marked by fasting and prayer, by self-examination and repentance. These spiritual disciplines that are commended by Christ are especially fitting in this season of preparation.
Spend a few minutes midday and/or at the end of your day to deliberately stop and reflect on the condition of your soul.
- What was my first and greatest pursuit today?
- What was my mind preoccupied with today?
- What strong emotions did I experience today – and why?
2. Confession of sin.
Acknowledge what is true about your brokenness and ask God to change you.
- Repent of what drew your affections away from God today.
- Repent of what you did/said that you should not have.
- Repent of what you failed to do/say that you should have.
Sinful practices should be put away immediately and permanently. We don’t fast from sin; we fast from things that might hinder our full dependence on and enjoyment of Christ.
- Choose one day a week to fast from sunup to sundown.
- Drink only water one day a week.
- Voluntarily abstain from something that isn’t necessarily wrong, but holds too prominent a place in your life (e.g. a particular form of media or social media, a food or beverage, a specific comfort or convenience).
- As you take a break from these things, process how you feel about their absence. Ask God to fill that void and to sustain and satisfy you in ways those objects cannot.
The processing/reflection part of this season is vitally important to your spiritual renewal and growth. What are you noticing as you engage in some of these practices? What is God teaching you?
Believe it or not, the reason why Sundays are not included in the 40 days of Lent is because these are intentionally carved out as feast days. We feast in recognition of the fact that Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week, conquering sin and death, and giving us the gift of eternal life.
- Take time on Sundays to feast your mind, body, and soul on some of the good and wholesome gifts of God. Spend time with friends – old and new – enjoying good food, drink, and conversation.
- Deliberately engage in an activity that invigorates and recharges you (e.g. a hike after church, reading a good book, creating art, taking time for a hobby), and give thanks to God for this gift.
Finally, note that these are grace-based disciplines. You don’t ever have to do any of these things to earn or repay God’s favor. You already have God’s favor because of the undeserved kindness of Jesus. Pick a couple of these disciplines and stick with them in order to deepen your understanding of Christ’s love and to deepen your affection for him in return.