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Ethics & Religion
February 10, 2016
Column #1,798
Make 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" (Genesis 3:19).

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 article).


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 son."

 

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 land."

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:

https://www.tsm.edu/content/ash_wednesday_february_10_2016

 

Copyright (c) 2016 Michael J. McManus, President of Marriage Savers and a syndicated columnist.
 

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