Have you thought about observing Lent this year? There’s no Scriptural requirement to observe Lent—ultimately, it’s just the six week lead-up to Easter Sunday in the church calendar—but many Christians find it helpful and inspirational to observe the Lent season in some way. Generally speaking, when people observe Lent, they commit to a spiritual activity—prayer, Bible reading, reflection, self-denial, service, etc.—that will sharpen their understanding of Jesus Christ’s own sacrifice as described in the Bible’s account of the first Easter. The question of whether or not to observe Lent is a personal one with no “right” or “wrong” answer. But if you’re thinking about participating, here are a few ideas to consider. [See the Lent and Easter sections in the Bible Gateway Store]
1. PrayerPrayer is one of the core activities of the Christian life; the Bible commands us to pray continually andassures us of the efficacy of our prayers. Jesus himself took time on the night of his arrest to call out to his Father in prayer. Prayer is thus an understandably popular activity during the Lent season. When committing to pray over an extended period of time, it might help to choose a theme around which to center your prayers. Consider the following possible prayer “projects” to follow over the course of Lent:
- Pray for each member of your family, asking God to bless, challenge, and protect each individual.
- As above, but extend your prayers to include the members of your church, neighborhood, or other community. Find a phone directory or other listing of the members of your community, and each day pray for the next person on the list.
- Pray for your “enemies”—the people who confound, frustrate, and oppose you! And pray for yourself as well, that you would show your enemies the same grace that Christ showed to his.
- Pray for a different country each day during Lent. A few minutes on Wikipedia can give you a basic overview of the challenges facing any particular country. Pray also for missionaries and Christian communities in each country, whether they live in freedom or face daily persecution for their faith.
- With a bit of thinking, and perhaps consultation with your pastor or church leaders, you can probably come up with a long list of people and situations that need prayer, both in your local community and across the globe.
2. ServiceActs of service, particularly to help the underprivileged and others isolated from mainstream society, have always been at the core of Christian ethics. What acts of service could you perform during Lent?
- Cook meals, run errands, and offer a helping hand to a person or family in your community that needs assistance with day-to-day tasks. If you can’t think of anyone who needs this kind of help, your pastor or church leadership can almost certainly identify people for whom “small-scale” help like this would be a literal godsend.
- Donate food, money, or time to a local homeless shelter, battered women’s shelter, children’s hospital, or another organization that ministers directly to the hurting.
- Go out of your way to (anonymously, if possible) do something nice for a person in your neighborhood or community. Shovel your neighbor’s driveway when it snows; give a financially struggling family you know a gift card for gas and groceries; host dinner for that family you’ve been meaning to meet but haven’t yet.
- Identify a missionary family ministering abroad and support them with letters, donations, and/or prayer.