As I discussed yesterday, for years I had no idea what Lent really was. Even after I learned that Lent has been an important part of our habits in the church for centuries, I still had very little understanding of why we do things the way we do. As has often been the case for me, I was pleasantly surprised to find something very helpful right within this Methodist tradition of which I've been a part my entire life. The following "Invitation to the observance of Lenten Discipline" [perhaps could use a more exciting title, but] is part of our liturgy for Ash Wednesday and gives a helpful explanation of what Lent is and an invitation to participate:
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
the early Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord's passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church that before the Easter celebration there should be a forty-day season of spiritual preparation.
During this season converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when persons who had committed serious sins and had separated themselves from the community of faith were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to participation in the life of the Church. In this way the whole congregation was reminded of the mercy and forgiveness proclaimed in the gospel of Jesus Christ and the need we all have to renew our faith.
I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to observe a holy Lent: by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating upon God's Holy Word... (From The United Methodist Book of Worship)
I hope that, if you sense any kind of invitation for the kind of Lent described above to characterize your days between now and Easter, that you can take a moment now in prayer and dedicate these weeks of your life to God and his work of grace in you.
A Prayer for the Day:
Heavenly Father, in you we live and move and have our being: We humbly pray you so to guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of our life we may not forget you, but may remember that we are ever walking in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.*
A Prayer for the Week:
Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan; Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.*
*From The Book of Common Prayer
[This is part of 40 Days of Prayer: Daily Emails for Lent]