The three spiritual disciplines associated with Lent are fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. This Lent we’re inviting everyone at The Table to discern a spiritual discipline that enables you to get in touch with your body, your desires, and God.
The goal of Lenten disciples is not to punish ourselves or prove our loyalty to God, but rather to encounter God’s grace more fully in our lives. Here are a few suggestions in the realms of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving.
1) Consider a “partial fast” during Lent:
- Fasting from foods associated with “feasting”: chocolate, desserts, coffee/caffeine, alcohol, etc.
- Fasting from media or entertainment: cell phone, TV, streaming video, radio, music, email, computers, video games, etc.
- Fasting from habits and comforts: shopping, looking in the mirror, makeup, elevators, parking in a spot close to the store, finding the shortest checkout line, reading online, following sports, etc.
2) If you’re healthy and don’t have medical reasons not to, consider a “whole fast” by trying a 24-hour fast once a week during Lent. Traditional days for Christians to fast are Wednesdays (to commemorate Jesus’ betrayal) and Fridays (to commemorate Jesus’ crucifixion). Here’s how to do it:
- Have a light dinner the night before, and don’t eat anything more before bed.
- Then skip breakfast and lunch the next day, drinking only water, breaking your fast at dinnertime that evening.
Read a longer article on Lenten fasting if you’d like to learn more about Christian fasting.
Consider one of the following ways into prayer for Lent:
1) Set aside time for Morning or Evening Daily Prayer. As participants in the Anglican tradition, we have a commitment to our prayer book that guides and shapes our prayer and worship. We find the following two digital resources helpful to access the deep formation of the Book of Common Prayer:
- You can pray along with audio of someone praying morning or evening (or both) at Daily Prayer.
- Or if you prefer digital access to written prayer we suggest Venite Prayer App (which you can also download to your phone as an app).
2) Cultivate a habit and rhythm of silence. Try this as an outline for a 5-minute rhythm:
- Set a timer for 5 minutes.
- Take a few deep breaths, perhaps using words that affirm God’s presence with you; for example, as you inhale: “God you are present…” as you exhale: “and at work in me…”, or this 4-part breath prayer to lead you in to silence:
- “Come Back” – to be mindful of where my mind has wandered to
- “Breathe” – to center myself on my breath
- “Be Here” – to invite myself to just breathe and be still
- “Let go” – to release my needs, my desires, my worries, and be attuned to God.
3) Slowly pray the Lord’s Prayer once a day for five minutes. Try praying it through three times, like this:
- The first time just pray through the prayer as usual.
- The second time, pray more slowly, allowing people or situations to come to mind, and spend time in prayer about those things.
- The third time, focus on one phrase or sentence that seems most significant for you, and spend some time meditating on that.
4) Try prayer walking. As it gets a little warmer, consider going on a 20-minute prayer walk 1-2 times per week. Some people do their best praying while moving their bodies. There are lots of different ways to walk and pray, none of them wrong!
Lent is also a time for intentional and sacrificial giving to the poor (“almsgiving” is the old-fashioned way of saying it). In some ways, it’s a kind of fast: forgoing resources we would normally use for our own purposes, and giving them to those who often go without.
Consider the following ways to practice almsgiving this Lent:
1) Set aside some extra money each week during Lent and give to our benevolence fund.
2) Think of giving more than just money. The resources we have are more than just financial. Consider what it would look like to give your time and/or talent/skills to those in need.
3) Pair almsgiving with fasting. For example, perhaps you forgo your normal morning Starbucks during Lent and give the money you would have spent to our benevolence fund each week.
Let us Lent together
We invite you to prayerfully consider how to use Lenten disciplines of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving to draw close to God over the next 40 days. Let’s have a good Lent together!
Yours in Christ,
Fr. Ben, Fr. Matt, and Fr. Spencer