Lent is an early-church practice meant to prepare followers of Jesus for celebrating Easter. It remains a life-giving tradition that has the potential to transform the weeks leading up to Easter from a time of busy chaos into a season of commitment and reflection on Jesus. Lent has taken many shapes and forms throughout history. There’s no one way to do it.
What is Lent All About?
Depending on your background, you might know a ton about Lent or hardly anything at all. Either way, there’s probably more to the Lent tradition than you previously realized, from its origin to its relevance today. The history is really quite fascinating and points to some of what you know and understand about Lent today.
What is Lent?
Lent is the period preceding Easter that in the Christian Church is devoted to fasting, abstinence, and penitence in commemoration of Christ’s fasting in the wilderness. Lent is a 40-day season to repent over sin, lament over the rebellion in our hearts, and anticipate the power of Christ’s death and resurrection. Often, Christians have fasted or abstained from things or behaviors (food, sweets, meat, coffee, television, social media, etc.). In addition to abstaining, some Christians also add something to their lives during Lent (more church attendance, prayer, giving, Bible reading, etc.)
Ways to Fast
Throughout history, Lent has almost always involved fasting, whether by abstaining from one specific food or drink throughout the entirety of Lent or by having a daily fast from all food during daylight hours. The idea of fasting from food is that by abstaining we direct our attention to the Lord whenever the cravings for food rise up within us. Food, however, is not our only source of craving or enjoyment. So what if we thought creatively about fasting from other things where we might sometimes go for refuge rather than God?
7 Possible Things to Fast from:
There are no rules written in stone for Lent. You can choose one or more of these to fast from for the entire season of Lent. Or you can choose to fast from 1 of these each week, rotating what you fast during the season of Lent. It's entirely up to you.
Consider fasting from lunch this week and spending that hour in prayer, reading the Word, or praising the Lord through music. Or choose a specific type of food—candy, soda, meat, etc.—to fast from for the week. Or choose one day to fast from dawn until dusk, again spending the time you’d usually be eating to sit in God’s presence.
Television and Movies
Think about unplugging your televisions or devices and spending that time soaking in the Lord’s presence. If your family typically watches a show or movie together, consider exchanging that hour or two each day to open God’s Word, pray, and discuss the reality of sin in our hearts and in our world.
Social Networking and Internet
Think about exchanging the time you would normally scroll through social media or browse the internet for a time of intentional prayer, Bible reading or worship. Consider staying off certain platforms at certain points of each day or for the entire week, deleting the apps off your device or blocking those websites as you fast. (Of course, many people will need to use these during work hours for employment purposes)
Caffeine and Sweets
Consider fasting from your favorite caffeinated beverages or candy this week. Think about placing sticky notes with Scripture or prayer requests on or near where you keep those items so you are reminded to refocus your heart and mind on the Lord throughout the day. Consider setting aside the money you would typically spend on those beverages and pray about where you could give it to help those in need.
Radio, Podcasts, and Music
Consider trading your favorite podcast or your daily dose of music or talk radio for silence and solitude. Instead of turning on something when you get in the car, use this time to ask God to fill your heart and mind with His presence and to hear His voice more clearly. Consider choosing a few verses to memorize and use the time you’d normally spend listening to music, the radio, or a podcast in thoughtful meditation of God’s Word.
Shopping for Non-Essentials
Consider fasting from shopping for anything that is not absolutely necessary this week. Reflect on the ways that God has provided for your every need. You could choose to start a list of God’s provision in your life, spend time praying for God to help you remember that He is your ultimate sustainer and giver of life, or find small ways to be generous toward others in gratitude for what the Lord has given to you.
As we approach the end of Lent, think about getting up an hour earlier than usual or staying up an hour later to intentionally spend time with the Lord. Whether that be in prayer or confession, consider giving up a portion of your sleep to focus your heart and mind on God, specifically the passion of Christ.
A Family Option
As a family, decide to fast from something together and fill that time with a family devotion. Perhaps instead of having the TV on during dinner, agree to leave it off and have a family meal without distractions. If your kids are older, decide to fast from all devices during that time.
We hope you join as we experience Lent together and prepare ourselves for Easter.
One Final Option
For those who REALLY want to experience Lent, here is a 40-day devotional to download that takes 5-10 minutes each day.