What is Lent?
Lent is a very popular Catholic spiritual holiday. Lent is a time of prayer, penance, sacrifice, and good works in preparation of the celebration of Easter according to Catholicism. Lent is a fast that lasts for 40 days, although some dispute the time frame. It begins on Ash Wednesday and goes until Easter Sunday.
The 40 days comes from the time Jesus fasted in the wilderness before He began His 3 year earthly ministry. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “The real aim of Lent is, above all else, to prepare men for the celebration of the death and Resurrection of Christ…the better the preparation the more effective the celebration will be.
One can effectively relive the mystery only with purified mind and heart. The purpose of Lent is to provide that purification by weaning men from sin and selfishness through self-denial and prayer, by creating in them the desire to do God’s will and to make His kingdom come by making it come first of all in their hearts.”
Looking at the good
Now I can take a lot of that statement and explain how wrong theologically they are, but instead I’ve learned to take the good from that statement. “Lent is to provide that purification by weaning men from sin and selfishness…” How? “through self-denial and prayer.” Regardless of your thoughts on Lent, we all need some self-denial and a little more time in prayer.
Many celebrate holidays like Halloween and Valentine’s Day with no problem. Why not take the practice of Lent and give it a try? Is it because we are selfish and don’t want to give anything up? Giving something up for 40 days is not an easy task. The principle behind Lent can help us improve our self-discipline and learn how to exercise self-control.
Discipline is important!
In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Paul explains the importance of discipline. He refers to us as athletes who should exercise self-control (verse 25) and explains how he disciplined his own body to keep it under control (verse 27). Lent can be a perfect time for us to improve or learn better discipline. It is very important that we learn discipline.
We have, as Peter would say, an adversary the devil prowling around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). We need discipline because the current of the world pulls us away and we are reminded by John not to love the world or the things in the world (1 John 2:15-17). We need discipline because we are forgetful and easily distracted. We get tired and discouraged. We naturally prefer our own way.
What do I give up?
Now comes the fun part…deciding what you are going to fast from. The early church varied in what they would give up for Lent. Some abstained from all forms of meat and animal products like milk, cheese and eggs, but others would include fish. It has now transitioned into an individual giving up anything for 40 days. I have seen friends give up Facebook for 40 days, soda, candy, meat, etc.
I have personally decided to give up unnatural sugar, including Splenda and Equal too. When I told my wife she laughed at me. This will give you an idea of how hard this is going to be for me. And that is the point. Try not to make it something easy to do so you are doing it for the sake of doing it.
Challenge yourself! Remember the goal is to learn self discipline and exercise self-control. Whenever you feel the urge for what you have given up, pray. What a beautiful thing it would be if more Christians over the next 40 days learned and exercised self-discipline while denying themselves worldly pleasures and spent more time in prayer.
Please also check out the article by Ron Hughes on Should Christians Fast in the 21st century?
Editorial Note: Mike asked the assemblyHUB team if he should post this knowing the potential association with Catholicism. While the rest of the team does not practice Lent, we felt it important to post the article to show our support for personal convictions.