Wikio - Top Blogs - Religion and belief

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Start:Stop - A menu for Lent

Here is yesterday's Start:Stop reflection from St Stephen Walbrook. Our next Start:Stop session will be on Tuesday 23rd February from 7.30 - 9.30am. All are welcome to drop in within that time period for 10 minutes of quiet reflection.

For more prayers and reflection that fits your working day, see also Prayers on the Move. You may have seen the Prayers on the Move project advertised on public transport networks around the country. The posters, booklet, website and app encourage us to give praying a go, or to try doing it more often. If you’ve ever wondered why people pray, or you’d like to know more about what prayer is, see ‘Why pray?’ You don’t need to be religious to pray, but praying may help you to develop your spirituality and to connect with something bigger than yourself.

Bible reading

“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.

“So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others …

“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you

… when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6. 1-6, 16-18)


I grew up in non-conformist churches where Lent was never a feature of their annual programmes. As a result, for a long time I never really understood the value of Lent. It seems to me now, still looking at Lent a little bit like an outsider, that there are three main ways of using Lent; all of which are ultimately to do with deepening our relationship with God.

The first is to give up something for Lent. This way of approaching Lent clearly derives from Biblical teachings on fasting, where fasting is either be a response to a particular circumstance or part of a regular pattern of abstinence. In the first instance, we have a strong and particular sense of our unworthiness and need for forgiveness and our fasting is a part of our repentance. When fasting is part of a regular pattern of abstinence then it is usually more to do with freeing up time in which to spend in prayer and study of the scriptures than it is about a specific need for forgiveness. The reason people in scripture abstained from food for certain periods was in order to use the time gained in prayer and study of the scriptures. So, if we do the former but not the latter then we are missing out on the real benefit and purpose of Lent which is to deepen our relationship with God by spending more time with him in prayer than is usually the case.

The second approach is to take something up for Lent. Traditionally, in Churches, this has meant attending a Lent study group or reading a Lent book; both of which are intended to take us deeper into an aspect of our faith and relationship with God. In more recent years however taking something up for Lent has developed beyond study and reading to encompass actions and, in particular, acts of kindness. You could, for example, try the ‘Love Life Live Lent’ initiative where a different act of kindness is suggested for each day of Lent.

The final approach to Lent is to view it as being a time of preparation for Easter by reflecting on all that Jesus went through for our sake and all he achieved for us through his Passion and Resurrection. Some traditional ways in which people have done so have included regularly praying the Stations of the Cross or meditating on the Seven Last Words that Jesus spoke from the Cross.

So these are some of the menu options before us as we begin this Lent. Which will we choose? They are not, of course, mutually exclusive and some might choose a gourmet Lent by taking up all the available options while others may pick ‘n’ mix by sampling a little of this and some of that. Whatever you decide the challenge is to make active use of the next forty days in order to deepen your relationship with God. I wish you a holy Lent.


Let us pray for grace to keep Lent faithfully. Truly dust we are, and to dust we shall return; and truly yours we are,and to you we shall return. Help this to be a time of turning around and beginning again. Through the forty days of Lent, help us to follow you and to find you: in the discipline of praying and in the drudgery of caring – in whatever we deny ourselves, and whatever we set ourselves to learn or do. Help us to discover you in our loneliness and in community, in our emptiness and our fulfilment, in our sadness and our laughter. Help us to find you when we ourselves are lost. As we walk, God, be our way. As we learn, God, be our truth. As we grow, God, be our life.

Help us to follow you on the journey to Jerusalem to the waving palms of the people’s hope, to their rejection, to the cross and empty tomb. Help us to perceive new growth amid the ashes of the old. Help us, carrying your cross, to be signs of your Kingdom. As we walk, God, be our way. As we learn, God, be our truth. As we grow, God, be our life.

If we have grown soft, cushioning our lives with excuses, expose us to the toughness of your way. If we have grown lazy, cushioning our minds with easy, thin thoughts, expose us to the rigour of your truth. If we have grown comfortable, cushioning our living with satisfaction and success, expose us to the challenge of your life. As we walk, God, be our way. As we learn, God, be our truth. As we grow, God, be our life.


Grace to keep Lent faithfully, discovering God in our sadness and our laughter, new growth amid the ashes of the old, becoming signs of God’s Kingdom. May those blessings of almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with us and rest upon us, now and always. Amen.


Stuart Townend - The Lord's My Shepherd.

No comments: