Having grown up in a Pentecostal church, I have never observed lent. But my non-denominational church in Victoria observes the practice, so I’ve been given a bit of a crash course in what the Lenten season is all about. I thought I’d share with you some of what I’ve learned as well as what I’m fasting from during this season!
1. When is lent?
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday (March 1st this year), and lasts 46 days – until Easter.
2. Why does lent exist?
Lent commemorates the 40 days and 40 nights that Jesus spent fasting – and being tempted – in the wilderness:
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. – Matthew 4:1-2
It ends at Easter, which commemorates Jesus’s death and resurrection – the cornerstorne of the Christian faith.
3. What’s the point in observing Lent?
As I understand it, Lent is a time to prepare your heart and mind for Easter. It is a time to reflect, pray, repent, and refocus your attention on the Lord ahead of Easter celebrations.
4. How does a person observe Lent?
The churches I grew up in as a kid never observed Lent – so I am completely new to this! Most people that I have spoken to participate in some form of a fast during the season, whether it is a fast from food, or from a behaviour. Others choose to incorporate something new (like daily prayer or devotionals) into their lives during Lent. Whatever you choose to do, the idea is to make a tangible change in your life that sets your heart and mind on Jesus every day.
5. What does the Bible say about Lent?
The short answer: nothing! There is nothing in the Bible that talks about people observing Lent, and in fact, Jesus’ fasting in the desert wasn’t really connected with his crucifixion and resurrection. As such, lots of churches don’t observe Lent.
However, the bible does talk about fasting and prayer:
“Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” -Joel 2:12
When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven -Nehemiah 1:4
Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting. -Psalm 35:13
6. So what should I give up for Lent?
That of course, is up to you! For my first observance of Lent, I have a few things in mind:
- Fasting from Noise: this means shutting down Spotify, turning off the radio, and not speaking – just listening for God’s voice. This includes turning off my constant stream of podcasts and using that daily time for prayer and devotions
- Fasting from Self-Concern: I want to cultivate a servant’s heart this Lenten season. Rather than praying for myself, I want to delight in praying for others and in serving my neighbours.
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
-Psalm 37: 4
Ultimately, my hope for Lent this year is that through prayer and fasting from noise and self-concern, I will learn to delight in the Lord, and that He will work in my life to align the desires of my heart with His!
What about you – do you observe Lent? What are you fasting from this year?