Excellent reflection on Lent and Fasting

April 15, 2014

Today’s Lenten devotional at the Trinity School for Ministry, by MDiv student Rebecca Osborn is really excellent.  I know all too well how easy it is to seek some distraction or comfort to keep me from examining and confronting my sin and the state of my heart…  May the Lord help us all in these remaining days of Holy Week to come to Him and bare our hearts and let Him burn away all the dross that is dulling His life, His righteousness, His glory within us.

God’s grace through judgment is a major theme in the Old Testament. We are used to the idea of grace by gentler means, but we must not miss that God’s grace often takes the form of hardship to get the attention of his stubborn children. In Lent, we enter that hardship voluntarily, so that our hidden sins might be exposed and judged, and our new humanity in Christ might be a little more freed.

I don’t know about you, but I’m terrible at fasting. Food, in addition to being the good sustenance that keeps us alive, is also a comfort to hide in. When I am comforted in my physical body, it is easy to ignore an uneasy spirit. Whether I am uneasy because of pain or guilt or isolation, it is easy to escape those unpleasant feelings in a snack or other compulsion. Take away that habit and the emotion is exposed. It is in such a state that I can say, with the dejected voice of Jerusalem in Lamentations 1:19-20a:

“I called to my lovers, but they deceived me; my priests and elders perished in the city, while they sought food to revive their strength. Look, O Lord, for I am in distress; my stomach churns; my heart is wrung within me, for I have been very rebellious.”

Lamentations 1:17-21 is the distress call of Jerusalem in judgment. She has hit rock bottom. Many times in our Christian walk, we stand before the cross admitting our weakness. The path to wholeness in Christ is long. While we must be willing, our will alone is not enough to change us.

But unlike the woman Jerusalem, we are not without comfort (v. 17). We know that the worst of the suffering has fallen on the servant, of whom Isaiah tells us, “A bruised reed he shall not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice” (Isaiah 42:3). Through the fasting of Lent, we take our faintly burning wick to Christ, trusting him to bring forth justice in the fire of union with himself.  

(emphasis added)


An overview of traditional Lenten observances

March 5, 2014

The blog Piety Hill Musings, by the rector of St. John’s church in Detroit, has an excellent short overview of 12 traditional Lenten observances. It’s a great resource for those who want to learn more about Lent, and as you consider and pray about what spiritual disciplines to focus on in this season of the church year.

Here are a few excerpts:

1. Fasting – The weekdays of Lent are fast days, meaning that the amount of food is reduced. A good (if modern) suggestion is no snacks, no seconds, no desserts, and no alcohol. If you don’t normally eat snacks or drink, you may consider giving up some favorite food. The idea is to undertake something sacrificial, yet not overwhelming. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are strict fast days: one full meal in the evening, a very light one in the afternoon and for some nothing before 3pm. Those who are ill, elderly, pregnant or nursing are excused from this discipline. (Page li, 1928 B.C.P.)  [...]

4. Daily Office  – If you do not now read Morning and/or Evening Prayer from the Prayer Book, Lent is a good time to begin doing so.  It takes some effort and discipline to get the habit established, but once accomplished, it can bear great fruit in your spiritual life.  Each Office takes 10-15 minutes a day.   Ask the Clergy if you need help in how to do it.

5. Spiritual Reading  – An ancient custom is to take a spiritual book for regular reading during Lent.  This can be a book on the Scriptures, or one of the spiritual classics.   Many are available in the parish library, and the clergy would be happy to make suggestions as well.

Check it out.

You might be VERY SURPRISED by #12 on the list….!

I don’t think too many people usually include evangelism in their list of Lenten disciplines.  What a great reminder!


On praying and fasting for our nation

July 4, 2012

This excerpt is taken from Paul Davis’ book “Holy Ghost Fire or Hellfire? The inescapable choice.”

The good prayer and fasting has done cannot be underestimated. It has often both thwarted evil and moved God in heaven. It is terribly unfortunate that very few know the truth about American history and the great influence that praying men who lived fasted lives had upon this nation.

The Continental Congress made their first official act a call to prayer on September 6, 1774, after just receiving news that the British troops had attacked Boston. The first prayer in Congress was uttered on September 7, 1774, in Carpenter’s Hall, Philadelphia.

The Library of Congress, from the collected reports of the various patriots, recorded on a famous historical placard the effect of that first prayer upon Congress:

“Washington was kneeling there, and Henry, Randolph, Rutledge, Lee, and Jay, and by their side there stood, bowed in reverence, the Puritan Patriots of New England, who at that moment had reason to believe that an armed soldiery was wasting their humble households. It was believed that Boston had been bombarded and destroyed.

They prayed fervently ‘for America, for Congress, for the Province of Massachusetts Bay, and especially for the town of Boston,’ and who can realize the emotion with which they turned imploringly to Heaven for Divine interposition and – ‘It was enough’ says Mr. Adams, ‘to melt a heart of stone. I saw the tears gush into the eyes of the old, grave, Pacific Quakers of Philadelphia.’”

Fasting is a means of humbling ourselves individually and as a nation before God. The Israelites were taught by Moses to “afflict their souls” by means of fasting (Lev. 16:31). Devout Jews interpret this as a command by God to fast and strictly adhere to do so (Acts 27:9).

The founding fathers of the United States of America, the pilgrims, attributed their success to God through fasting and prayer. Setting aside special days of fasting and prayer was an accepted part of life in the Plymouth Colony. A law was passed on November 15, 1636, allowing the Governor and his assistants “to command solemn days of humiliation by fasting, etc. And, also, for thanksgiving as occasion shall be offered.”

The assembly of Virginia passed a resolution on June 1, 1774 as a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer. George Washington, our first president, set a pattern for leaders of this country to fast and pray. Washington’s diary records, “Went to church and fasted all day.”

Our country has precedence to fast and pray to avoid war. John Adams, our second president, proclaimed May 9, 1798 as a day of solemn humiliation, fasting and prayer. The United States was on the verge of war with France.

Under our fourth president, James Madison, when engaged in war with Britain, both houses of Congress passed a joint resolution desiring a day of public humiliation, fasting and prayer on January 12, 1815.

Abraham Lincoln, the Savior of the Union, the country’s greatest president, proclaimed three fasts. During the Civil War, Lincoln called the nation to prayer and fasting for national peace and unity. Lincoln’s second call on March 30th, 1863, was to repent as a nation through prayer and fasting. Honest Abe’s third proclamation was the first Thursday of August, 1864. He made a special plea for those in positions of authority to seek God with fasting and prayer.

The might that prayer and fasting exerts cannot be underestimated, as petitioners humble themselves before the throne of grace and unlock the arm of the Almighty to intervene in the earthly affairs of men. Indeed, we “have not” because we “ask not” (Jas. 4:2). Could it be that we are so engulfed in responding to the demands of our flesh that we cannot hear from our spirit? If we were not so quick to indulge our flesh in all that it is asking for, we might have time and attentiveness to do some asking for the spiritual blessings that ultimately affect the natural world in which we live.

Father,
We thank You for the blessings You have bestowed upon our nation. Amen.


Lent 2012 – INDEX of ALL Lent Posts by Category

March 14, 2012

Last Updated:  Feb. 11, 2013

Below is an index of all of our 2012 Lent Entries, organized by their primary category, with most recent posts in the category listed first.   Note:  Because we posted an extensive collection of entries during Holy Week of 2012, I have compiled a separate Holy Week 2012 Index here.

You can find all NEW Lent Entries by using our Lent 2013 tag.  Also, you may enjoy our brand new compilation of recommended blogs and websites for Lent 2013.

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1. Lent Devotionals

A Lent Poem: Barnfloor and Winepress

Dean Munday: Living in this World Longing for Home

Living Out Lent – pray for a desire for what truly satisfies

George Herbert: Confession

Lent reflections: “Formed by Small Things”

John Piper: Lent or No Lent, Life is War

Pastor Ray Ortland – 10 Things that Most Matter in Life

Temptation is Personal, Not Generic

Bishop Mark Lawrence: Ash Wednesday Meditations at TSM, Feb 2012

Read the rest of this entry »


Lent – cleaning house / cleaning our souls

March 12, 2012

I found the following reflection in the process of following various links for Lent devotionals at diverse blogs last week.  I apologize that I can’t remember whom to give a hat tip to for directing me to this excellent devotional by an Orthodox blogger comparing her messy house (and the ways she typically tries to avoid it or tame the mess)  to her messy soul… it’s a powerful analogy!

It’s embarrassingly remarkable really, how, despite talking about the mess, obsessing over the mess, buying stuff to tame the mess, at the end of the day my house remains no cleaner than before. Unless I bite the bullet, roll up my sleeves and surrender to the terribly untitillating  effort required to transform that which is hectic into an oasis of calmness and simplicity, peace will elude me.  [...]

Yes, it’s my soul I’m alluding to here, my disheveled soul, which I’m too distracted on my own to recognize is in need of some serious TLC so the Church, out of Love, points its cluttered state out to me.  And she knows I’m too weak to care for it all by my lonesome, so here I am, hand-in-hand with an entire community of Orthodox Christians from all around the world at the starting line of a Church assigned season of quiet prayer, reflection and preparation.   We simplify our diets, which aids in controlling our impulsivities. Mindless gorging, speaking, reacting or spending is terribly addictive and counterproductive, not to mention spiritually deafening. We attend Church services, beautiful services, lengthy and frequent services so imperative for keeping us focused on the aim at hand, and accessing the Christ hungry depths of our spirits too often smothered by earthly diversions.

[...]  Lent is not a pass/fail endeavor – it’s not a test, but rather a mystical means of healing and enlightenment I’d be very, very foolish not to take advantage of. The work of fasting won’t make God love me more – I’m very thankful to already, no matter what I do or don’t do, be loved by Him unconditionally. On my prayerful days, my forgetful days, my relapse days, my exhausted days, He is forgiving and full of grace. It will however affect the quality and fruitfulness of my day-to-day life here on earth. Waking up to a soul that’s been tended to feels tranquil and meaningful. I’m more generous, hospitable, courageous, patient, when I’m a good and faithful steward of my spiritual blessings.

Come, my fellow laborers, let us pace ourselves together, and with joy, throughout these forty days of work. Let us prune, water and feed our souls that Love may bloom , remaining confident, always secure in the promise that on the other side of our Lenten efforts lies the victorious Resurrection of all Life, all Purpose and  all Hope!

The full reflection is here. 

A good reminder and exhortation!  I highly recommend reading the full blog entry as it’s really a powerful reflection on decreasing the “clutter” in our spiritual lives, and the wonderful opportunity Lent gives us to be refreshed and renewed in the Lord’s presence.



Lent Quotes: Andrew Murray – “Prayer needs fasting for its full growth”

March 7, 2012

Prayer needs fasting for its full growth. Prayer is the one hand with which we grasp the invisible. Fasting is the other hand, the one with which we let go of the visible. In nothing is man more closely connected with the world of sense than in this need for, and enjoyment of, food. It was the fruit with which man was tempted and fell in Paradise. It was with bread that Jesus was tempted in the wilderness. But He triumphed in fasting.

. . . The body has been redeemed to be a temple of the Holy Spirit. In body as well as spirit, Scripture says, we are to glorify God in eating and drinking. There are many Christians to whom this eating for the glory of God has not yet become a spiritual reality. The first thought suggested by Jesus’ words in regard to fasting and prayer is that only in a life of moderation and self-denial will there be sufficient heart and strength to pray much.

. . . Fasting helps to express, to deepen, and to confirm the resolution that we are ready to sacrifice anything, even ourselves, to attain the Kingdom of God. And Jesus, Who Himself fasted and sacrificed, knows to value, accept, and reward with spiritual power the soul that is thus ready to give up everything for Him and His Kingdom. (emphasis added)

ANDREW MURRAY (South African pastor and missionary, 1828-1916), WITH CHRIST IN THE SCHOOL OF PRAYER (Springdale, PA: Whitaker House, 1981), pp. 100-101.


Lent Quotes: NT Wright – Fasting is “saying a firm goodbye to everything in us that still clings to the old”

March 6, 2012

In a Lenten meditation on Mark 2 and the discussion about Jesus’ disciples not fasting while the Bridegroom was with them, NT Wright writes:

So isn’t it a bit odd, as we get into the stride of the Lenten disciplines, to talk about Jesus and his disciples refusing to fast? Not a bit of it. It’s because of that new creation, launched once and for all with Jesus himself, that we need to take time and make the effort to bring our lives into line with the new reality. We do not fast because we commemorate some great national disaster. We fast because, as those already caught up in Jesus’ kingdom-project, in God’s new world, we need to be sure that we are saying a firm goodbye to everything in us that still clings to the old.

From Lent for Everyone: Mark, Year B

Hat tip:  Anglican Daily Prayer


Lent Quotes: St. Basil the Great on True Fasting

March 2, 2012

Let us fast an acceptable and very pleasing fast to the Lord. True fasting is the estrangement from evil, temperance of tongue, abstinence from anger, separation from desires, slander, falsehood and perjury. Privation of these is true fasting.

Homily I, St Basil the Great.


Lent Quotes: John Piper & John Wesley on Fasting – Fasting expresses AND assists our hunger for God

February 29, 2012

Another great passage from John Piper’s wonderful book on Fasting:  A Hunger for God, in which Piper draws on a powerful quote from John Wesley to explain how fasting both expresses AND assists a deep hunger for God in our lives:

One of the great effects of fasting is that it assists what it expresses. I mean that fasting is mainly an expression of the soul’s hunger for God. It is not a contrived means to make us love God. We love him and long for him. And then fasting rises up as a way of saying earnestly with our whole body what our hearts feel: I hunger for you, O God. Fasting expresses, rather than creates, hunger for God.

Nevertheless, it is also true that the very nature of fasting makes it an assistant to this hunger for God. The reason is that hunger for God is spiritual, not physical. And we are less sensitive to spiritual appetites when we are in the bondage of physical ones. This means that fasting is a way of awakening us to latent spiritual appetites by pushing the domination of physical forces from the center of our lives. John Wesley expressed this as well as anyone I have read. What he calls the “sensualizing” of the soul is a great hindrance to our longing for Jesus to return. Therefore fasting assists the very experience of hunger for God that it also expresses.

Fullness of bread [increases] not only carelessness and levity of spirit, but also foolish and unholy desires, yea, unclean and vile affections. . . . Even a genteel, regular sensuality is continually sensualizing the soul, and sinking it into a level with the beasts that perish. It cannot be expressed what an effect a variety and delicacy of food have on the mind as well as the body; making it just ripe for every pleasure of sense, as soon as opportunity shall invite.

Therefore, on this ground also, every wise man will refrain his soul, and keep it low; will wean it more and more from all those indulgences of the inferior appetites, which naturally tend to chain it down to earth, and to pollute as well as debase it. Here is another perpetual reason for fasting; to remove the food of lust and sensuality, to withdraw the incentives of foolish and hurtful desires, of vile and vain affections.

I do not mean to belittle the good gifts of God, as if eating were an evil or even a hindrance to spiritual sensitivity. Together with Wesley I simply mean to say that most of us run the risk of being overly “sensualized” simply by having every craving satisfied and rarely pausing in a moment of self-denial to discover if there are alive within us spiritual appetites that could satisfy us at a much deeper level than food, and that are designed for the honor of  God. Such is the appetite for the coming of King Jesus.

A Hunger for God, Crossway, 1997.  pp. 89 – 91

(A Hunger for God is available as a free eBook here)


Lent quotes: John Piper on our desire for other things versus our hunger for God

February 28, 2012

“Desires for other things”—there’s the enemy. And the only weapon that will triumph is a deeper hunger for God. The weakness of our hunger for God is not because he is unsavory, but because we keep ourselves stuffed with “other things.”  Perhaps, then, the denial of our stomach’s appetite for food might express, or even increase, our soul’s appetite for God.

What is at stake here is not just the good of our souls, but also the glory of God. God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. The fight of faith is a fight to feast on all that God is for us in Christ. What we hunger for most, we worship. (A Hunger for God, page. 10)

And

Christian fasting is a test to see what desires control us.  What are our bottom-line passions? (p. 19)

And

Fasting proves the presence [of a hunger for God], and fans the flame, of that hunger. It is an intensifier of spiritual desire. It is a faithful enemy of fatal bondage to innocent things. It is the physical exclamation point at the end of the sentence: “This much, O God, I long for you and for the manifestation of your glory in the world!”

One might think that those who feast most often on communion with God are least hungry. They turn often from the innocent pleasures of the world to linger more directly in the presence of God through the revelation of his Word. And there they eat the Bread of Heaven and drink the Living Water by meditation and faith. But, paradoxically, it is not so that they are the least hungry saints. The opposite is the case. The strongest, most mature Christians I have ever met are the hungriest for God. It might seem that those who eat most would be least hungry. But that’s not the way it works with an inexhaustible fountain, and an infinite feast, and a glorious Lord. (p 22 – 23)

A Hunger for God is available as a free download here.


A Lenten Prayer for times of fasting

February 24, 2012

Browsing through some old Lent entries at Sanctus, I noticed an entry from 2008 which has part of a Byzantine Vespers prayer:

The Lord my Creator took me as dust from the earth,
and formed me into a living being,
breathing into me the breath of life.
God honored me,
setting me as ruler upon earth over all things visible,
and made me companion of the angels.
But Satan the deceiver,
using the serpent as instrument,
enticed me by food–
parted me from the glory of God,
and gave me over to the earth and to the lowest depths of the earth.
But in compassion, O Savior, call me back again!

Byzantine Vespers

I was struck by what a powerful prayer this would make during times of fasting this Lent, remembering that Adam & Eve were indeed “enticed by food” into sin and separation from God, but that in choosing to abstain from food, I can grow in the Lord’s grace and in choosing Him over worldly pleasures, be drawn closure to Him.

May the Lord help us to truly be consciously choosing Him, and His ways  whenever we fast this Lent.  May we be declaring with our lives: Lord I want to be enticed into deeper communion with You and joy in Your presence!  It is You I desire above all else!

 


Lent Prayers – Scotty Smith: A Prayer for a Gospel-saturated Grace-inundated Lent

February 23, 2012

I was really moved by Scotty Smith’s Ash Wednesday Prayer at his prayer blog, Heavenward.  He is one of those evangelicals who “gets” Lent!

Here’s an excerpt:

And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. But days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.” Mark 2:19-20

Dear Lord Jesus, it’s Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent. For the next forty days we have the privilege of focusing our hearts, surveying your cross, and preparing for the greatest of all celebrations: Easter—the foundation of our hope and the fountain of eternal joy. What a great opportunity and gift.

For your glory and our growth, we ask you to inundate us with fresh grace in the coming weeks. We don’t want an ordinary Lenten season, Jesus. Saturate it with the gospel; overwhelm us with your daily mercies; stun us with your steadfast love—the only love that will never come to an end. It’s all about you, Jesus, it’s all about you what you’ve done for us, not what we promise to do for you. [...]

Over these next forty days intensify our hunger for you, Lord, and ignite our longing for the day of your return—the Day of consummate joy, the wedding feast of the Lamb. In light of that banquet, we choose to deny ourselves (fast from) certain pleasures for this brief season. But we’re not looking to get one thing from you, Jesus—just more of you. Fill our hearts with your beauty and bounty, so very Amen we pray, in your holy and loving name.

Read the full entry here.


A great Lenten Reflection on Why We Fast

February 26, 2010

WOW!  Over at Splendor in the Ordinary, Amy has a wonderful reflection on “Why We Fast”  It really is must reading in terms of helping us understand how “small” disciplines and sacrifices can actually allow the Lord to deal with big issues in our hearts.

Here’s an excerpt:

But personally, every Lent when I have chosen something related to eating and drinking for the Fast, it has hit me right where it hurts.  When I remove one of those little comforts, those easy over-the-counter panaceas, it doesn’t take long for my sin to flare. While I wouldn’t usually say I have a problem with anger, impatience, or bitterness, take away my morning coffee, (or X, Y or Z) and I do.

This leads me to justify my misbehavior:

These sins aren’t real, I’m the victim of my circumstances.

At other times, I begin the mental gymnastic:

Coffee, chocolate, dessert, whatever it may be…, these are gifts from God, He knows I’m weak that’s why He created these things, why am I taking it  upon myself to question this?!

But in the silence of Lent, I hear His Voice:

Pray. Be still. Take up your Cross. Follow Me.

GO READ IT ALL!


More on Lent for families / Lent in the home

February 22, 2010

Somehow I missed Amy’s post at Splendor In the Ordinary last week about how she and her family decorate their home for Lent.

Amy also has a post on Children’s books for Lent, and a lovely reflection and testimony about attending Ash Wednesday services with small children: Worshipping with Little Children.

Also on the family front, I’ve been remiss in not linking Jessica’s Homemaking through the church year blog. (Not being a mom, it’s a blog I don’t visit so often…, but it is excellent.) You can find all of her Lent posts here. Her Lenten posts so far this year have primarily focused on fasting as a family, including a ton of meatless recipes for Lent

Finally today, while looking for something else online, I came across an excellent blog Catechist’s Journey with ideas for Sunday School lessons for Lent – but many of these could also be used by families at home.  This looks like a truly WONDERFUL site.  I think I’m going to add it to our sidebar…  Hie thee hence!

Check out the following entries:

First Sunday of Lent – Needs vs. Wants

A CALENDAR of 40 Lenten Activities!

Lots ‘o Lenten Links

Don’t forget you can find all our posts on Lent resources for family and children here.


Lent 2010 Around the Blogosphere (updated)

February 16, 2010

Update: there is now a Lent category at Anglican Mainstream.  You’ll find Anglican Mainstream’s  daily Lenten devotionals here.

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The roundup below is listed in alphabetical order by blog, not in order of priority.

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At Awakenings, my Lutheran pastor friend Eric Swensson (aka the Pietist) posted a great prayer last week on the theme of Christ’s transfiguration and praying that His light would shine in the darkness of our hearts.  I like it as a Lenten prayer. Eric usually has lots of good devotional material, so well worth bookmarking his site for Lent.

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Orthodox priest and blogger Fr. Stephen Freeman has a number of recent posts in preparation for Lent at his wonderful blog Glory to God for All Things.

The Instinct of Repentance (This probably will form the basis for a stand alone entry here soon)

The Great Fast (I’m likely to post an excerpt from this tomorrow.)

A Sermon on Repentance (after St. John Chrysostom)

By the Waters of Babylon (a traditional Orthodox Lenten-season hymn)

Also, this morning I’ve reposted a previous Lenten reflection from Fr. Stephen “The Difficulty of Lent” from our old blog’s archives.

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Christine Sine at Godspace today has posted Morning and Evening Prayers for Lent.

Read the rest of this entry »


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