Lent is not a self-help program

Morning Prayer at Bread for the World on Friday was about connecting to the heart of Lent.  I often find it useful to remind myself of why the Church began to practice Lent each time the season gets underway.  It’s NOT about losing a few pounds, or a time to kill bad habits, or even helping us to gain self-control over sins and failings.

In short, Lent is NOT a self-help program.

Lent is about GOD helping us.

In every aspect of our prayer, our alms, and our fasting we are reminded of this reality.

  • Our prayer connects us to God: the source of our being and the sustainer of life. By giving space to an awareness of God, the door of our heart is opened to God’s grace and transforming love.
  • Our alms remind us how dependent each of us is upon the gracious gifts we have been given by God, and by our neighbor, and unite us with the God who is by very nature an image of self-gifting.
  • Our fasting reminds us that one does not live on bread alone, but that our lives are always gifted and sustained by God.

Lent is the place where we recognize that we can’t do it alone. We struggle to be faithful in simple things. We fail. We are in need of help.

In spite of our weakness, however, we are called to lift up the name of God in prayer.
In spite of our weakness, we are called to lift up one another in acts of service and love.
In spite of our weakness, we are called to imitate Christ who fasted for us.

How can we, who are so weak, hope to do these things? God has chosen to join us in our weakness, even to the point of becoming weak Himself.

On Friday, my colleagues and I joined in singing “I Need Thee Every Hour.” I had never thought of it as a Lenten song before, but it fits so well. Take a moment to listen to this creative and beautiful rendition, and think about how this perspective might deepen your Lenten journey this year.

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