40 Days of Lent

Find your own spiritual path

 

During Ash Wednesday services on the first day of Lent, many United Methodist pastors will invite their congregations “to observe a holy Lent: by self–examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self–denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s Holy Word” (from the 
). While you may be aware of this season leading up to Easter, you may wonder how you might “observe a holy Lent.”

There isn’t one correct way – we are each encouraged to find our own method of confronting our sinfulness, remembering our mortality, and giving thanks for the gift of salvation we receive through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

Fasting

One of the more common practices is to give something up for Lent. Some abstain from chocolate, social media, shopping, or something else through the season. This is a religious practice known as fasting. We fast to reorient ourselves away from the distraction of those things, and back toward God.

Bible reading

Another way to reorient your life toward God, is to focus on devotional practices like Bible study and prayer during the season. Spending extra time in Bible reading and prayer is a great way to observe Lent.

Prayer

  

In the busyness of our everyday lives, prayer can sometimes get squeezed out. Lent is a wonderful time to intentionally work toward finding more time in your life for prayer. Enriching your prayer life is a great way to spend Lent. 

Service

Another way to observe a holy Lent is to take on a new way of serving. Throughout the forty days of the season you can adopt a new habit of volunteering in the community, making special financial gifts to service organizations, singing in the choir, or participating in a small group.

Rest 

                                                                           

An important practice with which many of us struggle is the spiritual discipline of rest or Sabbath. We don’t have to rest on Saturday, the traditional Sabbath day, or even Sunday. You can instead find moments during an ordinary day to be still in God’s presence. You might choose to spend a few minutes during lunch with a desktop meditation, listen to sermons on your commute, or read a poem that feeds your spirit. Each can be a great way of enriching your Lent.

Child resources

You will also want to find ways to share the meaning of the season with the children in your life. While their focus may be on Easter baskets and new clothes, you can enter into special times to help them find deeper meaning to the season.  

Some families set aside money each day during Lent through creative ways to collect coins each day or by making small “sacrifices” as a family, like skipping a weekly movie or meal out, and collecting the money saved each week. On Easter Sunday, or soon after, donate the money to help people in your local community or across the globe.

 Even while dyeing Easter Eggs you can creatively teach children about your faith by sharing The Importance of the Egg: Children and Easter video, which tells of the symbolism of the Easter Egg in a wonderfully lively way.

Learning

You may also use Lent as a time to learn about the seasons of Lent and Easter, and some of the practices of the Christian church.

Common symbols like the cross carry a great deal of meaning. A less traditional symbol like anEaster Totem Pole from Alaska may also be fun to know more about. 

Learning about rituals specific to the season can enhance your worship. You may want to know more about the ashes used on Ash Wednesday, a Maundy Thursday footwashing service you’re considering attending, or the Tenebrae service your congregation is planning for Good Friday.

You may also choose to learn more about baptism and communion, the sacraments of the church. Each has a connection to Lent and Easter.

 Worship

Many United Methodist churches offer services on Ash Wednesday to begin of Lent, and other special services during Holy Week, the final days leading up to Easter. There may also be special times of prayer, study, and other gatherings that will help you continue your journey throughout the season.

Observe a holy Lent

This 40-day journey called Lent is a wonderful opportunity to grow in your faith. Find your path of self-reflection and spiritual discovery, and invite others to join you as you seek to observe a holy Lent.  

Joe Iovino works for UMC.org at United Methodist Communications. He may be reached at jiovino@umcom.org