The season of Lent, which on the church calendar is celebrated the 40 days before Easter, begins today, on Ash Wednesday. Lent has been a part of Christian practice since the very earliest days after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus.
In some theological traditions, these 40 days focus on self-mortification: that is, struggling to make one’s self more worthy before God. But in the Reformed tradition, the focus is more on awareness and look honestly at the state of our own souls in the light of both the law and the cross. That is why fasting has been such a central part of the traditional celebration of Lent: those who fast seek to remove distractions so we can focus on the most important parts of our faith.
This morning, as Lent begins:
We ask God to speak to us
About our hidden sins, the things we rarely notice
About his grace—give us peace and confidence in the midst of the struggle
We ask Him to help us put away:
Anything that is an idol, that takes the place of God in our lives
A prayer for Lent: Heavenly Father, we know that you must be first in our heart, but we also know that that is so rarely the case. Instead of loving you with all of our hearts, souls, minds, and strength, we have a long list of things that we love more than you.
But we also know that you are a God of grace. Please forgive our foolish idolatry. Renew our love for you. Please make yourself the object of our delight. Restore to us the joy of our salvation.
We know, Father, that you hear the prayers of your people. Thank you; hear our prayers today.
During this season, spend time thinking about:
Who am I apart from the work of Christ? In and of myself? The really, honestly true me?
How do I see that part of me working its way out in my daily life?
And who has God promised to make me because of the work of Christ?
Where do I see that fruit growing in my life?
As I look to him in faith, what should I expect God to do to me in the coming years?
Remember as you consider the state of your own heart:
It is easy to become self-absorbed or morbidly introspective
Let your contemplation be focused more on God’s work than on your own shortcomings
Lent should be contemplative, but not morbid; it should lead us to awareness, not misery. We are trying to reflect on our salvation, not earn it. Most of all, remember that the end of Lent is the cross, and the end of the cross is the resurrection. This time of quiet will lead to a time of joyful shouting from the housetops!
Until then, let’s join together in reflection.