February 10, 2016
a Prayerful Lent
By Mike McManus
Today as I write, it is
Ash Wednesday - the beginning of Lent, a 40-day period before Easter
when many Christians attend a service in which ashes are placed in a
cross on each person's forehead, with the pastor repeating a Scriptural
reminder, "Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return"
The ashes, which come from the burning of palms from the last Palm
Sunday, are a reminder that our flesh will return to the earth, and
become once again, dust.
Christians believe death will not have the final say, because of the
ministry of Jesus Christ, through his crucifixion and resurrection.
"Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your sting?" Paul
writes to the Corinthians.
Unfortunately, many Christians ignore Ash Wednesday and Lent altogether.
Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights before he began his earthly
ministry. "Should not we thy sorrow share and from earthly joys abstain,
fasting with unceasing prayer, strong with thee to suffer pain?" wrote
George Hunt Smyttan (1822-1870).
Millions of Christians observe Lent by fasting or "giving up" some
pleasure - such as alcohol - as a modest attempt to create in us "new
and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins," ask God for
"mercy and forgiveness through Jesus Christ our Lord," states the Book
of Common Prayer.
The prophet Amos urged, "Seek the Lord and live." Let us cast off the
works of darkness and self-reliance and find our life in him. Though we
are dust, one day we shall live in Him.
These are some of the thoughts of a
daily devotional for Lent
published by the Trinity School for Ministry (see link at bottom of
Each day begins with Scriptural readings and a brief uplifting
commentary. For example, the Ash Wednesday's Scripture suggestions are:
Psalm 32 plus Amos 5:6-15, Hebrews 12:1-17 and Luke 18:9-14.
David writes in Psalm 32 that when he kept silent about his
transgressions, "my bones wasted away, through my groaning all day
long...Then I acknowledged my sin to you...my transgressions to the Lord
and you forgave the guilt of my sin."
Hebrews 12 offers this admonition: "My son, do not make light of the
Lord's discipline and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the
Lord disciplines those he loves and he punishes everyone he accepts as a
Lent is a time for
Christians to re-examine our lives and ask some tough questions:
Have we been as
generous as we should be with the poor or those in need?
Have we shown love to
people who some may consider unlovable?
Have we opposed those
who are evil?
Have we taken a stand
for righteousness when it is unpopular to do so?
On the second day of
Lent, Psalm 37 is assigned to be read. It begins:
"Do not fret because
of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like grass they
will soon wither...Trust in the Lord and do good, dwell in the land
and enjoy safe pasture."
"Delight yourself in
the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. He will
make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your
cause like the noonday sun."
"Be still before the
Lord and wait patiently for him..."
"Refrain from anger
and turn from wrath; do not fret - it leads only to evil, for evil
men will be cut off, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the
As a reminder of the
sacrifice Jesus made on the cross, many choose to fast during Lent. For
we know that Jesus was resurrected after his death on the cross. We
believe that after our death, we will experience eternal life with him.
By denying ourselves food, we can become more spiritual, and grow closer
to God. Fasting reminds us of our powerlessness over death - yet it also
prepares us for the glory of Easter - the Resurrection of Jesus. For His
Resurrection also holds out the promise of Jesus that we will share a
life with Him after death.
On the night before his crucifixion, Jesus prayed, "Father, I want those
you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the
glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the
world" (John 17:24).
Perhaps you have never observed Lent before. Why not do so now? Use this
time to prepare for Easter by deepening your spiritual walk.
Easter will have a more profound meaning for you.
You can read the daily
Lenten devotionals at this link:
Copyright (c) 2016 Michael J. McManus,
President of Marriage Savers and a syndicated columnist.
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