At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, He was sent out into the desert for 40 days and 40 nights (Matthew 4:1-11), where He fasted from food for the duration. During that time Jesus completely devoted Himself to the Father. All of this was preparation for His ministry to show people and teach people who God is and how to live in perfect relationship to Him. Jesus’ hunger drove Him deeper into the presence of God, as He prepared to live out His mission as the Messiah, the Savior of the world.
Lent is the 40 day period from Ash Wednesday to Easter, where Christians deny themselves of something, and devote themselves through prayer to Jesus. We could give up a good thing like chocolate, a common convenience like Facebook, one meal each week like Friday lunch, or a temptation like dessert or alcohol. When we think of what we’re giving up, or crave it, we turn to God in prayer and we say, “God I’m putting you ahead of this in my life. I’m giving this up to tell you and to remind myself that I love you and need you more than everything else.”
This process of denial and devotion helps us identify with and communion with Jesus, and serves to build up even greater anticipation for Easter.
If you are counting at home, you will notice that there are actually 46 days during Lent – what gives? Since our devotion is not nearly as strong as Jesus’, traditionally the 40 days of fasting during Lent doesn’t include the 6 Sundays that fall between Ash Wednesday and Easter. Think of it as the origin of cheat days. Better still, take a small break-fast each week, and so let every Sunday during Lent be a small taste of the glory of Easter.
PATHWAYS TO JESUS FOR LENT
GOING DEEPER WITH JESUS AND OTHERS
Each year during Lent, we invite you to DENY yourself of some worldly comfort (chocolate, alcohol, Netflix, etc), and DEVOTE yourself to Jesus in its place. This year we challenge you to devote yourself through a different PATHWAY each week to help deepen your relationship with Jesus.
Since people are different, some approaches are more appealing to some than others, and each approach reveals different aspects of the character of Jesus. Taking a variety of approaches in our relationship with Jesus will help us identify the ways that most naturally deepen our relationship with Him, and will stretch that relationship to encounter and experience more of Him in more of our life.
We invite you to open your heart as we take this 7-week journey to Jesus. Each week will be a different path to see and know Jesus. You can engage with each pathway by yourself or with others. Some can be done in Life Group or at Work, and each week there will be a corresponding church event. And make sure someone else close to you is engaging too. Interact with others on these journeys. Sharing our experiences will help us go deeper still.
Week 1: Prayer & Fasting (Feb 14-17)
Call: Pray about what to deny yourself from and begin fasting
By Yourself: Skip a meal or two on one day during the week, and spend the time praying!
With Others (family, friends, etc): Get together with friends or family and pray for each other
At Life Group: Extended time of prayer at group
At Work: Take a prayer walk during lunch one day or ask a co-worker to pray together
Extra Credit: Set aside a full hour to pray; 30 minutes of speaking to God and 30 minutes listening to Him
Church Event: Ash Wednesday Service
For further exploration:
Article on fasting by our pastor: Gospel Centered Fasting.
Fasting for Beginners: https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/fasting-for-beginners
List of country based prayer requests: http://www.operationworld.org/country-lists
Resources on prayer from the Navigators. https://www.navigators.org/topic/prayer/?post_type=resource
Check in next week for more!