I started observing Lent a few years ago. I was looking for a way to dwell in the Easter season and focus on the good news and celebration of Easter Sunday.
I had no idea what I was doing. Growing up in a Southern Baptist home and church, we didn’t observe Lent. I needed to do some research.
What I found was that the evangelical church does not have a set Lenten practice. Even the Catholic church has a variety of ways they observe, depending upon the branch of Catholicism and the individual church and person. I read articles and listened to sermons and found out the ways of observing Lent are as many as the people who observe it.
However, there are three elements that are almost always part of Lent: prayer, giving something up, and giving something back.
Prayer. The reason for Lent is Jesus and His sacrifice for our sins. Lenten season is a time set aside to focus more on prayer and your relationship with God, leading up to the celebration of Easter at the end.
Giving something up. Lent also has an element of fasting. It is a way to unite with Christ’s sacrifice on a much smaller scale. Throughout church history, there have been different ways of fasting and different elements to that. Most evangelicals observing Lent choose something that would be a sacrifice for them to do without. There are those who refrain from chocolate, Facebook, lunch, caffeine, television, music during commutes, meat, etc.
Giving something back. We imitate Christ’s gift to us by giving to others over and above our usual tithe during Lenten season. Many times giving something back is directly tied to giving something up. For example, some will take the time they would have spent watching TV and volunteer in their community. Others take money they would have spent on lunch or coffee and give it to organizations feeding the hungry or providing water. Blood:Water Mission has a program set up during this time to do exactly that. You pledge how much you would have spent on one cup of coffee (or a Coke) during the 40 days of Lenten season and give that money to their mission of building wells in Zambia.
In the years I’ve observed Lent, I’ve found it to be a sacrifice worth making. It hasn’t been easy (doing without something you enjoy isn’t fun!), but it has been a time of growth in my relationship with Christ. Easter Sunday was all the more sweet and celebratory because of the time I’d spent in prayer, fasting, and giving back. I recommend trying it out this season.
Lent begins March 5 and goes until Easter Sunday. Many people break their fast on Sundays, treating them as “mini-Easters,” or smaller celebrations of Christ, making 40 total days of fasting and observance.
Do you observe Lent? What has the season taught you? How do you use your fast to give back to others?