Many Christians observe the season of Lent with 40 days of a spiritual practice of their choosing. Lent is traditionally the fast of 40 days before Easter, beginning on Ash Wednesday, and it helps us clear out space in our lives for a deeper relationship with God. It’s a small way we honor the suffering of Jesus in the last days of his life.
Throughout Christian history, Lent has been a time of taking responsibility for our failures and sin—penance—and dedicating ourselves to greater devotion through our giving of time and money, spending more time in spiritual activities, and abstaining from that which comes between us and God.
If you want to observe Lent this year, here are five ideas to consider:
- Fast. The golden oldy of Christian spiritual practices. Catholics fast by not eating meat on Ash Wednesday or on Fridays during Lent. You could choose to skip one meal a day, a week or by eating only 3 meals a day (no in-between-meal snacks). You can fast from foods that you feel addicted to, with chocolate being top on the list for many of us. So, there are fasting options for all bodies and physical conditions. Some people fast from media, gossip, complaining or other habits that get in the way of their spiritual condition
- Move your Body. Most of us don’t exercise enough, and while Lent is not about a body project, it is a good time to simply move around more. Prayer walks are especially helpful. They are exactly what they sound like. You pray and open yourself to God’s presence as you walk.
- Appreciate nature. Most of us also don’t spend as much time outside our four walls as we need to. Breathing fresh air and enjoying the elements (be they sunshine, clouds, rain or snow) bring us closer to God. Commit to feeling more grounded by letting your feet come into contact with actual ground!
- Add a spiritual exercise to your daily routine. I call this the Preferred-Protestant-Practice for Lent. While my Catholic friends are perfectly OK giving something up for Lent, my Protestant friends don’t usually like that approach, so they add a practice. There’s no reason you can’t do both and I personally would like to see all Christians at least try giving up something that is not healthy for Lent! Adding a new spiritual practice to your life can be refreshing. If you have never tried centering prayer—sitting in silent openness to God—Lent is a great season to pick this practice up. If you need new ideas for prayer, see my book 50 Ways to Pray.
- Almsgiving. This is the traditional Lenten practice of giving more of your income to alleviate poverty. Since a prime sin in our culture seems to be over consumption, giving wealth way is proper penance and it helps loosen the grip of materialism in our lives.
Do you need help choosing or sticking with a spiritual practice? Perhaps a spiritual director could help. Spiritual directors are trained in helping you explore your spiritual path. Learn more about it at www.teresablythe.net or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.