Lent is the 40 day journey (excluding Sundays) set aside in the church calendar in preparation for Easter. The time spent during this period is to be devoted to prayer, repentance, and self -reflection of one’s life. Although not every church or denomination observes Lent, many Christians choose to observe this season as a way to keep their focus and shift their thoughts on the forthcoming death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Lent is not specifically mentioned in scriptures and therefore is not a command or requirement.
The rules for fasting during the Lent season vary from denomination and geographical location. Generally, those who fast during the Lent season, fast six days a week over the course of six weeks. Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent and was instituted to bring the exact number of fasting days before Easter to 40. The types of food and drink people fast from also vary but generally include meat, animal products, and soda. In some religions, the fasting modifications have relaxed drastically to make the process more simple and easy. Today though, Christians are still encouraged to give up something for Lent as a form of self-denial.
Another, less popular, Lent tradition is to limit your meals to just one per day. Traditionally, this meal would be eaten in the evening or at 3pm and should be void of meats and dairy. The absence of dairy products led to the tradition of eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday (also known as Fat Tuesday) and the blessing of the Easter eggs. The Lent practices for fasting have evolved overtime to allow for additional meals for strength as well as eating fish, other meats, and dairy.
Does the number 40 sound familiar? The number 40 holds special significance for Christians. Moses spent 40 days and 40 nights on Mount Sinai in preparation to receive the 10 Commandments (Exodus 34:28). Elijah walked 40 days and 40 nights before the Lord appeared to him on the mountain of God (1 Kings 19:8). And the most importantly, Jesus spent 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness fasting while continually being tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:2). Ash Wednesday also symbolizes the beginning of Jesus’ 40 day fasting and prayer while in the wilderness.
The choice to observe Lent should be a personal decision. When deciding what to give up for Lent, do so with a grateful and humble heart. Don’t give up something that doesn’t take effort or act like a Pharisee and look for loopholes in the guidelines. Fasting without the desire to renew your relationship with Christ is a form of blasphemy. Whether you fast from something small, give up your meals during the day, or add something to your schedule during this season, the effects of atonement and self-discipline will astound you and your relationship with our Savior will forever be changed.
While the fasting practices have changed over the years, the intent for the Lent season has remained the same – to repent of your personal sins, to renew your faith and commitment to the Church, and to prepare your heart for the return of Jesus Christ. How do you strengthen your relationship with Christ during the Lent season?
Here are some great ways for your family to celebrate Lent together:
- Begin a Lenten devotional that accommodates the whole family.
- Read your Bible and be intentional about memorizing scriptures.
- Simplify your schedules and eliminate luxuries.
- Serve others with the hope of sharing Christ.
- Replace urges with time spent in prayer.
- Walk humbly and keep your focus on Jesus. Don’t publicize your Lent practices and bring the attention on yourself. This time is about reflection on Christ, not your personal accomplishments.