Lent: Follow

We are mere days away from the end of our yearly Lenten journey. For too many of us, the wandering in the wilderness, the abstaining, the humility and perseverance of this season will be forgotten amidst the Easter feast and return to normal life. Before we become victims of our cultural excesses, may we hear a helpful warning to war against this tendency.

“There can be no doubt that monastic life should always have a Lenten character about it.”

-St. Benedict, The Rule, Chapter 49

Since Benedict was writing for everyone, I am of the opinion that we could read this simple quote today in the following manner: There can be no doubt that the life of a follower of Jesus should always have a Lenten character about it.

Said another way by N. T. Wright in reference to the ultimate goal of our Christian life:

The idea of a goal, an ultimate aim, calling us to a hard road of self-denial—the idea, in other words that Jesus of Nazareth meant what he said when he spoke of people taking up their cross to follow!—has been quietly removed from the record, not only of secular Western life but also, extraordinarily, of a fair amount of Christian discourse.

-N. T. Wright, After You Believe, p. 53

It is time for us to return to the hard road of self-denial as the default position in the life of following after Jesus. Not merely as a part of our Lenten observance (although, it needs to be intensified during this time) but as a part of our everyday living.

May we keep a blessed Lent (and keep a Lenten character to our everyday living).


Lenten Prayers 5

This week we remember the final week of Jesus’s life. Too often we can go from the shouts of praise of Palm Sunday to the triumph of the resurrection with little reflection, consideration, or involvement of the seven days that fall between these major events. The prayers that follow below are intended to help us be conscious of and enter into Jesus’s final week leading up to his betrayal, suffering, crucifixion, death, and burial.

Lenten Blessing*

God, as we walk through Holy Week, may we remember that beyond sin there is love inexhaustible, beyond death there is life unimaginable, beyond brokenness there is forgiveness incomprehensible, beyond betrayal there is grace poured out eternally. May we remember and give thanks. Amen.

Dawn to Dark, p. 244

Daily Prayer*

God, as we walk through this week we recognize it is not life as usual. This week we remember your last week on earth, which ended with your death on a cross and your being laid dead in a tomb. As we walk with you through this final week may we grow in holiness; may we deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow you. We long to grow in our trust in, love for, and devotion to you, our one true and living God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Dawn to Dark, p. 245

*The first prayer is an opening prayer. It is suitable for you to pray first thing in the morning, as a prayer of blessing over a meal, or as a call to worship in a public setting. The second prayer is intended to be prayed throughout the day as a way to join your heart with your sisters and brothers who make up the body of Christ.


Lent: Beyond Ourselves

As I have been walking slowly through the forty days of Lent, I have revisited some books I often pick up during this season of the year. One I recently have started browsing through is Sister Joan Chittister’s The Liturgical Year. In this post I want to share the paragraphs that have captured my hopes for Lent and for my formation as a Christ follower. My prayer is that they capture your aspiration as well.

Having conquered our impulses for the immediate, having tamed our desires for the physical, perhaps we will be able to bring ourselves to rise above the greed that consumes us. Maybe we will be able to control the anger that is a veil between us and the face of God. Perhaps we will have reason to foreswear the pride that is a barrier to growth. Possibly we will learn to foreswear the lust that denies us the freeing grace of simplicity. Maybe we will even find the energy to fight the sloth that deters us from making spiritual progress, the gluttony that ties us to our bellies, and the envy that makes it impossible for us to be joyful givers of the gifts we have been given. 

Lent is the period in which, learning to abstain from adoring at the shrine of self, we come to see beyond the divinity we have made of ourselves to the divine will for all the world.

Joan Chittister, The Liturgical Year, p. 113

May we live a blessed Lent.


Lenten Prayers 4

There are two more prayers for us to pray during this time before we remember the final week of Jesus’s life. These prayers for Lent seem to capture well many of the themes we have looked at during Lent this year.

Lenten Blessing*

Father, help us be formed in the likeness of your Son, Jesus Christ, who willingly came to our world, lived a perfect life, and died that we might live a new life. May we be filled with his never-ending love, nurtured by the truth of his living word, and guided through his perfect example. Amen.

Dawn to Dark, p. 242

Daily Prayer*

O God, whose blessed Son steadfastly set his face to go to the city where he was to suffer and die; let there be in us this same devotion which was in him. Forgive us, we beseech thee, our many evasions of duty. We have held back from fear of men. We have ranked security and comfort higher than justice and truth; and our hearts condemn us. But thou, O Lord, who art greater than our hearts, have mercy upon us. Purge us from the fear that is born of self-concern. Beget in us the fear that we may be found wanting in loyalty to thee and thy purpose of good for mankind. Fill us with the compassion of him who for our sake endured the cross; that we may be delivered from selfishness and cowardice; and that, dedicating our lives to thy service, we may be used of thee to help one another and to heal the hurt of the world; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Dawn to Dark, p. 243-244

*The first prayer is an opening prayer. It is suitable for you to pray first thing in the morning, as a prayer of blessing over a meal, or as a call to worship in a public setting. The second prayer is intended to be prayed throughout the day as a way to join your heart with your sisters and brothers who make up the body of Christ.


Lent – Mercy

One of the words that quickly comes to my mind when I consider the season of Lent is that wonderful word mercy. There are a number of word pictures accompanying that word that also flood my mind. The most often and most meaningful image I land on when I think of mercy comes from a wonderful story from the pen of Walter Wangerin. The story is entitled Ragman, and I heartily recommend the book of the same title to you. Wangerin read that story many years ago at a Youth Specialties conference, and it connected the dots between God’s mercy and my great need in a way that still resonates.

Lent is a time when we come to see our need for the great mercy of our God. During this season, we are challenged to become aware of our dustiness and our propensity to wander from God’s best. The other side of that story is: God is with us and offering mercy and a way to return to God’s will and way.

During this time of Lent, may we have open eyes to not only see our great need but also our great way-maker. Walter Wangerin opens his book Ragman with the following invocation:

Unto you, Lord, Unto you, Lord God of the Worlds, I turn. And even when I do not know I am turning, I turn to you.

 Your print is everywhere, and everywhere divine.

Where can I look and I do not see you?

Into myself? But I encompass you, who compass me from every corner, for I am sin and you are forgiveness and I cannot live except it be by you. My life itself is yours. No, when I look at me I see the thing that you have done.

Then where can I look and I do not see you?  [Ragman and Other Cries of Faith, Walter Wangerin, p. IX.]

Thank God for mercy that is more than enough! May we live a blessed Lent.


Lenten Prayers 3

We are just past the halfway point through the season of Lent. The journey to stay the course of our fasts, prayers, and humbly confronting our limits and weaknesses becomes more difficult. The need to persevere and humbly walk with our Lord through this wilderness is part of our task in this season. The following prayers may help us in our endeavor to faithfully follow.

Lenten Blessing*

Blessed are you, O Lord, our God, who sent the prince of peace to reconcile us to creation, ourselves, one another and you. O God, may we find our joy in your word this day and in your Son, who brings us new life. With faith and patience, may we faithfully continue our Lenten journey toward Easter. Amen.

[Dawn to Dark, p. 242]

Daily Prayer*

Christ Jesus, even when we can feel nothing of your presence you are always there. Your Holy Spirit remains constantly active in us, opening little ways forward to help us escape from our dead ends and to move us towards the essential of faith, and of trust. Amen.

[Dawn to Dark, p. 243]

*The first prayer is an opening prayer. It is suitable for you to pray first thing in the morning, as a prayer of blessing over a meal, or as a call to worship in a public setting. The second prayer is intended to be prayed throughout the day as a way to join your heart with your sisters and brothers who make up the body of Christ.


Lent: Repentance

Continuing in this time of Lent can seem overwhelming. Forty days in a row of anything in our society seems like overkill. We have been raised within a luxurious society of change, variety, and ever-present distractions. Lent is so counter to our daily living. This time in the Christian calendar keeps our frailty, our mortality, our sinfulness, and our need for God in front of us with a persistence that is rare in our time. If we are able to face it and submit to this time, we open our lives to the living God in ways we often hide from and neglect due to our busyness and pace of life.

Lent repeatedly calls to us to repent of our sin. It is a period of time when we turn the focus of our lives toward our limitations, failings, struggles, mistakes, regrets, and omissions. A time when we invite God to help us change our ways. One approach for us to face this prospect of sustaining a life of careful reflection and sincere repentance is the practice of praying the Purity Collect. During Lent is a great time to regularly recite this prayer. Praying it slowly and taking time between phrases and sentences for silence and/or to reflect on the words and how they relate to our lives can make this a meaningful and significant exercise.

The Purity Collect:

Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be open, 

all desires known, 

and from whom no secrets are hid: 

Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, 

that we may perfectly love thee, 

and worthily magnify thy holy Name: 

through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 May we face ourselves and lay aside our sin, that we might embrace our calling as daughters and sons of the living God. May we keep a blessed Lent.


Lenten Prayer 2

As we continue to observe the season of Lent, will you join in offering the following prayers this week? The first prayer is an opening prayer. It is suitable for you to pray first thing in the morning, as a prayer of blessing over a meal, or as a call to worship in a public setting. The second prayer is intended to be prayed throughout the day as a way to join your heart with your sisters and brothers who make up the body of Christ.

Lenten Blessing

Blessed are you, O Lord, our God, who sent us the gift of the Messiah. Help us be ready to celebrate the great mystery of Jesus’ suffering and death offered on our behalf. Help our love grow, our devotion deepen, our faith increase, and our awareness of your presence heighten as the feast of the resurrection draws near. Amen.

(Dawn to Dark, p. 242)

Daily Prayer

Praise and glory to you, Jesus Christ our Saviour, for you do not call the righteous but us sinners to repentance. You draw us away from the easy road that would lead to our destruction. You call us instead to seek God’s kingdom, to strive for what is right and to lay up our treasure in heaven. Amen.

(Dawn to Dark, p. 243)