The season of Lent begins next week on Wednesday, February 17.
It’s almost here.
Here are three reasons why Lent matters this year more than ever.
- Lent was established centuries ago by church leaders to help Christ followers remember the humility of Jesus and imitate Him as we are called to do.
This year, following the life changing disruptive rule of Covid-19 and the subsequent civil and political unrest, we need more than ever a day and a season to humble ourselves before God.
As 2 Chronicles 7:14 tells us, “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
- Lent means “the lengthening of days” and began during the apex of the Roman Empire and the infant years of the church. The 40-day period became infused with biblical meaning as it mirrored the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness, the 40 days and nights of rain during the flood, the 40 days Moses spent on Mount Sinai, the 40 days the spies searched out the land at God’s command, and the 40 days Jesus walked the earth between His resurrection and His ascension.
Lent officially begins with simple quiet somber church services. The purpose is to call us to repentance. This year more than ever we need to heed the call of Jesus to repent and believe on His name for salvation, healing and revival.
- Lent services are usually marked by the application of ashes to the foreheads of worshippers who choose to come forward. Ashes indicate mourning throughout the Old Testament:
- “Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the long robe she wore” (2 Samuel 13:19).
- “Mordecai put on sackcloth and ashes and cried with a loud bitter cry” (Esther 4:1).
Many others did the same including Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Jonah.
This practice is an important reminder of our sin that separates us from God. It also reminds us that we are frail and finite:
- “I am but dust and ashes” (Genesis 18:27).
- “He remembers that we are but dust” (Psalm 103:14).
- “All are from the dust and to dust all return” (Ecclesiastes 3:20).
This year we need to confess our pride before God Almighty, remember we are but dust, and pray earnestly for revival and for His restoration work.
Here are three actions you can plan this week to observe the beginning of the Lenten season.
- I strongly encourage you to attend a service at your church or another church this Ash Wednesday, even if you’ve never done this before.
It’s a very small sacrifice of time.
It’s a very important act of worship.
Take your children if they are still at home. Families need to stand together for the Savior, or your children will be pulled away by the world.
And follow the practice of having ashes applied to your forehead in the shape of a cross. To be identified with Christ is needed this year more than ever.
- If you want to continue the experience of Lent beyond Ash Wednesday consider fasting. It doesn’t have to be from food, though that does remind us daily of our needs as a mortal being. Removing other things from our daily routines can also help us remember our need for the divine. Consider fasting from complaining or from worry. Reduce or eliminate screens, or stop social media for the six weeks of Lent. John Piper calls fasting the “pleasant pain” of self-denial.
- Make prayer a focus of your life for the next six weeks. Pray during Lent that we—as the body of Christ and as individuals—might bow before the Almighty in recognition of who we are in light of who He is. We will stand before Him one day on our own not as part of a church or group.
We. Need. God.
Set a timer on your watch or phone or in your kitchen to remind you to pray many times during the day. I suggesting starting with three daily times of prayer: morning, noon and night. If you don’t know what to pray, there are lots of Lenten devotions you can follow and I bet your church has one or can recommend one.
Your prayers can be very simple. You can pray each time, with humility and focus, “Thank you God that you are with me. Thank You Jesus that you died for me.” Even a simple repeated prayer like this will please God and I’m confident will change your heart over six weeks.
God Himself told us bluntly that “no one seeks for God” (Romans 3:11). Use the season of Lent to increase your hunger for Him rather than indulging yourself with a thousand lesser things.
Take time for Him because He entered time for you.
Structure your life to make room for Him because He came to room with you.
May God hear from heaven and heal our land this Easter season.