Praying, Fasting, & Almsgiving: The Disciplines of Lent

BishopBishop Michael Rinehart

As we seek to grow our people spiritually, Lent comes as a gift. It is a defined period dedicated to spiritual growth. As Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness after his baptism, praying and fasting in preparation for his earthy ministry, so do we.

How are we teaching our people to pray? How are you teaching the newcomers to your church the spiritual disciplines? How about those who have been around for a while?

Here’s how Lent in 2015 unfolds:

Wednesdays in Lent

February 18, 2015 – Confession (Ash Wednesday)

February 25, 2015 – Learning to Pray

March 4, 2015 – Oratio

March 11, 2015 – Lectio

March 18, 2015 – Meditatio

March 25, 2015 – Contemplatio

April 1 – No service. Worship Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday

Sundays in Lent

February 22, 2015 – Lent 1

March 1, 2015 – Lent 2

March 8, 2015 – Lent 3

March 15, 2015 – Lent 4

March 22, 2015 – Lent 5

March 29, 2015 – Palm Sunday

April 5, 2015 – Easter Sunday

The Triduum

April 2, 2015 – Maundy Thursday

April 3, 2015 – Good Friday

April 4, 2015 – Easter Vigil

I would encourage you to consider dedicating Lent to study prayer this year, perhaps using Learning to Pray Againthe prayer resource I prepared: Learning to Pray Again, available in print and kindle.

There are 40 chapters for each of the forty days of Lent. Each chapter has a prayer practice to try out. The sermons each Wednesday could be a summary of seven practices they just read. Or you could pick out one that speaks to you and focus on it. Small groups could process their attempts to practice the exercises. There is a short appendix in the back with some ideas of how to structure this.

There are three parts:

  1. Daily devotions
  2. Weekly worship
  3. Weekly small group discussions of the prayer practices

These practices will spark people’s prayer lives. Read through them. No matter where you are at in your faith life, there is something here that will appeal, from walking, to silence to lectio divina.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,  the moon and the stars that you have established;  what are human beings that you are mindful of them,  mortals that you care for them? ~ Psalm 8:3-4

Everybody prays. If you’ve ever hoped that a date would say yes, that you would get a good grade on the paper, get the job offer, dodge a diagnosis, then you have prayed. The yearning of the heart is prayer.

If you have ever stood at a mountaintop, overwhelmed by the beauty, or at the ocean, struck by its majesty, or laid in your back yard staring at the stars, millions of miles away, you have prayed.

If you have sat or walked in silence, allowing your spirit to become calm and receptive, if you have listened to your soul, discerning an important decision, or if you have felt a tug within you to do something benevolent, bigger than yourself, then you have prayed. You have experienced what people throughout the ages have called the Holy Spirit.  You have communed with God.

Even if you feel far from God right now, God is closer than you think, closer than a brother, closer than your own skin. God is in you and around you and in every breath you take.

Prayer is multifaceted. There are many different ways to pray. Some of these ways are more conducive to your personality than others. There have been many times in my life that I have been stuck in my prayer life. For one reason or another, I felt I couldn’t even pray. Most often, it was discovering a new way of praying that helped me break through to a new place of deeper peace, greater awareness and more acute introspection.

This small book is a prayer journey. In these 40 chapters your people will explore many different ways to pray. If you read these each day, I guarantee you will find all kinds of ways to pray. You will not be bored. If you’re stuck, you will get unstuck. Try it.

I encourage you to read a chapter a day, and try some of the exercises in these pages each day.

Take notes. Start a prayer journal. If something works particularly well, make a note of it. If something doesn’t work for you at all, write it down. It might not be the right thing at this moment, but perhaps 20 years down the road? It might be just what you need.  And your people may thank you.

One thought on “Praying, Fasting, & Almsgiving: The Disciplines of Lent

  1. Thanks for encouraging everyone to pray. When I was young/ a kid/ I had lots of Luther’s prayers memorized and prayed them, but now I can say that I am always praying, mostly thanking Jesus for all the blessings I have. I think asking is good especially to keep my family around the world safe, but being in a state of thanksgiving is the best.

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