We often give up a food or some pleasure. But there are other ways to prayerfully observe this time before Easter.
Posted in , Mar 11, 2019
You won’t find Lent mentioned in the Bible. The Christian observance of a period of repentance and self-denial leading up to Easter seems to have originated, however, at least as early as the 2nd century when the Greek cleric Irenaeus wrote about a pre-Easter fast that dated back to “our forefathers,” the apostles.
But the spirit of Lent can be found throughout Scripture and may suggest ways to enrich your observance in new ways. Here are four things you might give up, as an act of prayer during this special season.
When the angel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary to tell her that she would give birth to Jesus, the Son of God, she already had other plans. She was engaged. She probably expected to lead a quiet, provincial life as the wife of a village artisan. But those plans changed soon after the angel said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” (Luke 1:28, ESV).
Amazingly, Mary replied to the angel’s announcement with, “let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38, ESV). It’s unlikely she knew any but the tiniest piece of how her plans—her life—would change, but she surrendered and took up God’s plans instead. Are there plans you can prayerfully surrender into God’s hands this Lenten season?
Mary and Martha had to have known what had to be done when the Teacher, Jesus of Nazareth, visited in their home. As the women of the house, they would’ve been expected to prepare a meal—or several—for everyone in the Teacher’s orbit. But Mary chose what was “better,” according to Jesus (see Luke 10:42). She let go of others’ expectations—even those of her sister—and focused on Jesus. Are there some expectations you can prayerfully let go of this Lenten season?
When Jesus dined as the guest of Zacchaeus, the tax collector responded gratefully, “Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus replied, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:8-9, NIV). What better sign of repentance and salvation to make this Lent than to give generously to someone in need?
The culturally acceptable route for Jesus and His followers to take from Judea to Galilee would have been to cross the Jordan River in order to avoid going through Samaria. But Jesus not only took the Samaritan route, He also stopped at a well in Sychar and spoke to a Samaritan woman. With His actions that day, He rejected numerous religious and cultural prejudices—and brought salvation to many in that area (see John 4:1-42). Are there biases you can prayerfully lay down or somehow reject this Lenten season?
Whatever else you may do to observe Lent, why not try something new?