While I grew up going to church, my family and church never observed lent. I first encountered it about 5 years ago when we started attending our current, liturgical-style church, which observes the traditional Christian calendar. Actually, I mentioned to my brother that we were going to ash wednesday service yesterday and he asked me, “isn’t that some sort of Catholic thing?” Hahaha. My husband did grow up attending Catholic church, but his only memories of lent were not eating meat.
So, suffice it to say that we don’t believe in any hard and fast (get it? fast!) rules about observing lent, as there is nothing specifically stated in the bible. It is, however, a powerful and beautiful tradition to prepare your heart for Easter!
What is lent?
Lent is the 40 days (not including Sundays) before Easter. It begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday (the evening before Easter). The 40 day period represents the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness being tempted before beginning His ministry. 40 days is also considered a Holy length of time in which changing of the heart can take place, due to it’s use throughout scripture.
Since neither Vincent or I had traditions in ways that we wanted to observe lent, we got to research all of the ways that people celebrate and choose for ourselves!
The most traditional way of observing lent is through fasting from food. Many people will give up meat, or not eat at all during certain hours of the day. Other people will give up a particular food item that they enjoy, such as chocolate, cheese, or sugar.
Just remember, this is not a diet plan! You are depriving yourself in order to have heart and mind change. Each time you would normally reach for the junk food, you can instead be reminded to pray.
Some people will instead fast from something else. Usually other enjoyable activities such as social media, television, going out for coffee, purchasing clothing, etc.
Anything that you prioritize over God and need a heart-break from to re-focus on His desire for your life is a good choice here. Anything that is a distraction from serving God or even just something that you do often that will again remind you to pray.
Adding something-While the traditional way is to fast (take something away), sometimes it’s best to add a new routine. You may choose to add a daily morning prayer walk, begin keeping a journal of your prayers, or if you never have before, maybe lent is the perfect opportunity to begin a daily bible time.
A lenten devotional-There are many scriptural resources dedicated specifically to this season! A book to guide you through prayers and bible verses related to lent?! Sounds like a great way to get ready for Easter! If you want to do your own bible study, common topics for this season would be the suffering of Jesus, repentance, and returning to God’s ways.
Family prayer and devotions-if this is not already a part of your family routine, I highly recommend integrating it into part of your lenten season! Family devotions can be as simple as reading a scripture together and praying out loud. It’s powerful for your kids to see you holding and reading from an actual paper bible, because they will copy and value what they see. I know that often when we read scripture, it’s on our phones and our daughter wouldn’t know if we were memorizing bible verses or scrolling through instagram.
Lighting a candle-even just this simple habit of lighting a candle each evening can symbolically mark that this is a special season. It will be a reminder each time you look at it of Christ’s suffering, the Holy Spirit’s power, and the Joy that’s coming at Easter
Service-Lent is a great time to make a new habit of serving others. Some may want to commit to serving or volunteering in their communities once a week or doing acts of kindness for their coworkers. A great way to institute this as a family is to commit to doing one surprising act of service for a family member each day, how fun would that be?!
Giving-You may want to challenge yourself to give money more sacrificially this lenten season. Maybe there is a particular ministry or needy family that God wants you to give to. Lent is the perfect time to give and pray for the need that God is calling you to fulfill!
Pray about what is God’s desire and will for you in celebrating this season. It’s not a period of rules, guilt and chores, but it is a joyous and exciting way to examine your own heart, gain more biblical knowledge and wisdom, find freedom in Christ, and strengthen your family.
What about you? How will you be celebrating Lent this year? Did I miss any ways to prepare your heart for Easter celebrations?