So, taking up some sort of fast during Lent is wonderful. But, there is no Law that says we must do it, nor is there one that says it is the only way to focus on Christ during Lent. What I thought I would do for this Top Five is offer up five suggestions of other Lenten disciplines to help you fix your eyes on Jesus this Lent.
1) Attend Midweek Services- There is no better practice for the Christian than attending to the Word of God. Period. Gathering around God’s Word and sacraments is the very lifeline of the Christian. These services will tend to be more subdued and melancholy. And beautiful. They should serve as a stark reminder of Luther’s last words, “We are all beggars.” But, as we come to God, begging and repenting, He comes in His Word to journey with us to the cross, where beggars hands are filled! You really have nothing better to do that night. American Idol is a poor excuse for not hearing God’s Word. If you don’t have a midweek service at your church, become a midweek visitor!
2) Technology Fast- OK, I know you can’t remove all technology from your life. However, there are some things you can stop doing. For example, I go on a social media fast every year. No Facebook, no Twitter, nuthin’. You could also have phone free days where you don’t pick up your cell for a whole day and just focus on being with friends and family. Spend time talking to someone face to face instead of text to text. Or, if you are really bold, you can just give up TV for forty days. “But what,” you say, “will I do with my left over time?” Besides actually talking to real life people, you could…
3) Read a Theology Book- I stole this idea from the Cranach Blog a few years back. Since you will have fewer screens in your face, you can replace them with a book. And, not just any book, but one that will enrich your faith and knowledge of Christ. If you don’t read very often, I wouldn’t recommend picking up Chemnitz’s four volume Examination of the Council of Trent. However, challenge yourself. Read something that will stretch and exercise your brain muscle. If you have never read the Book of Concord, this would be a great time to start. If you want other recommendations, shoot me an email and we’ll figure something out: firstname.lastname@example.org .
4) Pray a Psalm Daily-Every morning when you wake up or at night before you go to bed, read a psalm and make it your prayer. You can do forty of them for each day in Lent or you could do one Psalm for the whole season. I would recommend spending time every day in Psalm 119. It is very long, so don’t try to swallow it all at once. Instead, take small bites every day, spend five to ten minutes just meditating on the text, and then pray for the Lord to guide you through your day with His Word in your heart. Luther says this Psalm exists to get us excited about God’s Word, thus it deserves a great deal of our time. But really, meditating on any Psalm will be a fruitful exercise for your Lenten journey. Hopefully, this becomes a practice for you after Lent has ended.
5) Pray the Litany Daily-This is an idea I took from LCMS President Matt Harrison. The Litany is a long prayer which we will pray every Sunday in my congregation throughout this season. It is a beautiful prayer that focuses our hearts, minds, and words on Jesus. So often when we pray we can focus on our own pressing issues. It is a great thing to present all of our pressing issues to God (and His promise to listen is an overwhelming blessing), however, the Litany enables us to pray for many things that might not immediately come to mind. It turns our focus outside of our prayers towards our neighbors needs and God’s will. It is in the Lutheran Service Book on page 288-289.
Add to the list. Do you have any Lenten practices that you find helpful? What about ways in which Lenten practices have proven harmful or counterproductive? May God grant you a mouth full of repentance and ears filled with His mercy this Lenten season!