Why Lent?

from the devotional book, "The Road to Resurrection"

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Growing up, I had no idea what Lent was all about. I heard people talk about “giving something up” for Lent—something like eating chocolate or drinking Coke. And one of my best friends in high school—a Roman Catholic—didn’t eat meat on Fridays for a few weeks each Spring. But I had no idea what any of it meant or why anyone observed these practices.

If you’re like me, you may not have grown up in a church setting that emphasized (or even mentioned) Lent. Because it wasn’t something we were raised to practice, we might be tempted to eye such practices with suspicion and caution.

A few years ago, I started to do some digging. I discovered that the season of Lent is an ancient Christian practice dating back to some of the earliest believers. I learned that Lent isn’t something to eye with suspicion but something worth embracing and practicing. This Spring, I invite us all to observe the season of Lent together. During this season, we will link arms as we walk the road to resurrection with Jesus. In the process, I think you will find that Lent is a beautiful season, annually grounding Christians back to the basics of our faith while calling us to repentance, remembrance, and renewal.

The word “Lent” comes from an ancient Anglo word meaning, “spring.” The Christian season of Lent begins every year on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter (40 days + 6 Sundays). The forty days of Lent serve to remind us of the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness fasting, preparing for his public ministry, and overcoming the temptations of Satan.

A disclaimer: It is 100% true that Lent is not mentioned in the Bible as a season or holiday that Christians ought to celebrate. (For that matter, neither are Christmas and Easter.) However, the grounding themes and principles of Lent—fasting, prayer, and repentance—couldn’t be more biblical.

Fasting

Fasting is an ancient biblical practice of denying ourselves our natural needs to tend to our spiritual needs. We don’t fast to earn grace or punish ourselves. We fast as an acknowledgment that God is our source and strength. We weaken the physical body to strengthen our spiritual being. We fast so that we might draw away from the world around us and draw deeper into God’s presence.

During Lent, we turn to God through fasting, desperate for His strength to withstand temptation, to live a life of courageous faith, and to stay dedicated to Him in a difficult world.

Prayer

In my experience, most Christians are better at talking about prayer than practicing prayer. Sure, we know how to give God our laundry list of wants and needs. But prayer is so much more than just submitting a purchase order to the CEO.

Christian prayer is more about developing an intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father than it is about asking our Heavenly Father for the stuff we want. Christian prayer not so much talking as it is listening. Christian prayer is not about getting more from Jesus it’s about becoming more like Jesus.

It’s true, we should “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:16) and we should pray regularly no matter the time of year. However, I have found that Lent helps me renew my commitment to prayer and intimacy.

Repentance

Repentance is not something just to be done by sinners when they first come to faith in Christ. It is a healthy spiritual practice for all Christians. Everyone can find room for improvement in how we walk out our faith in righteousness and holiness. John encourages us:

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  1 John 1.9 (NIV)

For the growing and maturing Christian, repentance ought to be a regular practice. As the Spirit reveals our imperfections and flaws, we obey His voice, repent, and receive His grace which enables us to walk in holiness and live a sanctified life.
So, at Lent we take opportunity for forty-six days to pray, fast, and repent in anticipation of Easter. In this devotional book, every day we will focus our scriptural readings on the last few weeks of the earthly ministry of Jesus. During Lent, we will follow Christ on the road to resurrection. First, He leads us to the hill of crucifixion. But He will not leave us there. He leads us through the cross and the grave and into the resurrection garden. On this road to resurrection, we seek to identify with His suffering, His sacrifice, and His ultimate victory. From that place of victory, we join Him in His mission to renew the world through love.

As a Pentecostal Christian, it surprises me that some of my Spirit-filled brethren vehemently oppose the idea of observing Lent. I guess it all seems a little too “Catholic” or a little too “ritualistic” for them. But these same saints probably attend or lead a church where the practices of fasting and repentance are encouraged regularly. In fact, the current trend is for many Spirit-filled churches to spend January of each year with an extended season of fasting and prayer. Lent emphasizes the very practices and beliefs that we Pentecostals already celebrate.

Fasting, prayer, and repentance are good things to do no matter the time of year. If you struggle with the concept of Lent think of it like this: Lent is simply a season of fasting, prayer, and repentance that occurs in the six weeks leading up to Resurrection Sunday. What better way is there to “reset” spiritually before the Easter holiday?

Get ready to grow spiritually as we walk down the road, up to Calvary, through the grave, and into the resurrection life of Christ!

READ MORE:

WHY ASHES? 
WHY FAST?