For those who don’t know, it’s the period of 40 days of preparation for the commemoration of the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord. After the Reformation, some people stopped celebrating it, but many (Lutherans, Methodists, Anglicans, Presbyterians and of course, Catholics and Orthodox) continued and still do. I love it, and still celebrate it, although I haven’t been involved with a liturgical church in several years.
It lasts 40 days… kinda reminds us of the 40 days of fasting by Jesus, or 40 days to commemorate the 40 years of wandering in the desert for Israel (or the “waiting on the Lord” of Psalm 40 even). For most Western Christians it runs from Ash Wednesday to Good Friday, and it generally doesn’t include Sundays (Sundays are considered “mini-Easters”).
If you’re the kind of person who “gives up” something for Lent, that’s fantastic. Not because sacrificing makes you closer to God, because I don’t think it necessarily does… But… As a reminder, in our flesh, that Jesus gave up a whole lot to be with us, it’s a great exercise. But here’s an alternative… that’s positive.
I actually normally give up a few things I like (candy among them) for Lent, but this year I’m doing something different. You can try it if you’d like. This year I’m taking up something. Not stopping something, but adding something (hopefully replacing something else in my day that needs replaced).
I don’t pray enough, or on purpose enough. Do you?
Way back in Christian and Jewish tradition, people marked the hours of the day with a brief stop with prayer. You see indications of this in the psalms and in some of the regularly scheduled prayer practices in the old and new testaments. (Notice, throughout Scripture, the times described when people are praying.) A lot of people, most significantly monks and “religious” people, still do this today. But plenty of regular people like you and me do this, too.
So, I’m going to schedule these prayer stops as my “Lenten discipline”. There’s nothing wrong with “discipline”, by the way. It helps make you a “disciple”. You in? You don’t have to use any special books or words (although there’s nothing wrong with them if you want to do that), but you can join me wherever you are if you want.
I’m already doing this at 6am (they call this “prayer at dawn” or “Lauds” and it helps me get centered for my whole day before the rest of the family wakes up). I stop and say some real specific prayers to start my day, examine myself, ask for guidance and provision and forgiveness, and then I do my Life Journal readings.
So I’m adding, Monday through Friday, 9am, 12pm, and 3pm. Those are traditional times for prayer since time immemorial. They even have names like Terce, Sext, and None (for the third, sixth, and ninth hours of daylight). Sunday is, frankly, a big workday for me at church, and Saturday is family time and work time all rolled together, so I’m going to stick with the weekdays. I work at a church, so stopping what I’m doing for five minutes so I can talk to God… I doubt that will be considered an interruption of my workday.
Now, I know that I won’t be able to get every one of these done the way I want to, but if I mark them all (I have actually made appointments in my Outlook calendar), then I figure I’ll be scheduling more time to spend with God… deliberately… on purpose… not just when I feel lost, but before I do. (Just imagine if Charlie Sheen had started this practice years ago. Maybe he wouldn’t be in the mess he’s in.) So, if you decide to do this with me, don’t worry about hitting every hour. No reason to be legalistic about it, just be more intentional about praying more, that’s all. Combine it with your Life Journal reading if you want to, that’s a GREAT plan.
I’m not talking about stopping for an entire hour of prayer (although there’s nothing whatsoever wrong with that if you can make that kind of time occasionally). Just a few minutes or moments, spent intentionally connecting with the One who made and saved you… I anticipate that some days I’ll take a minute, some days I might take 5 or 10.
Note: There are some on-line resources that are great if you’re the kind of person who wants help coming up with the words to pray. (There’s nothing wrong with this. I do it often myself.) My favorite is this one, universalis.com. It’s very ecumenical in terms of its language, so no matter what kind of Christian you might be, it should work for you. Or, just use your own words, they are great, too. Or you can use the Psalms of course. We are so blessed to have so many options for this. Mix it up! Use your own words one day and some Psalms the next! It doesn’t matter which way you go, God will LOVE to spend this time with you, I promise!