Our Journey to the Cross
A 40-day Lenten Journey toward The Resurrection
Season of Lent
The liturgical season of Lent begins with the solemn observance of Ash Wednesday and continues for six weeks, culminating with the church's joyous celebration of Easter (Sundays are not included in the count, since Sundays are considered "little Easters," all of which celebrate the resurrection.). Also, during the period of Holy Week, which begins with Passion/Palm Sunday, churches around the world have special worship services on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and on Saturday--the Great Vigil of Easter.
The word Lent is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word for springtime, which is a literal translation of the lengthening of the days. In the early church, the Lenten period was used as a time for preparing new converts for Baptism on Easter Sunday. Today it is a time for preparation, reflection, growth, and change. The forty-day period of Lent was established in the middle of the fourth century.
The liturgical color for Lent is purple, a solemn color, a color for royalty and repentance. The liturgical color for Easter Sunday and the Sundays between Easter and Pentecost is white, signifying purity. White is the liturgical color also for Christmastide and All Saints' Day (November 1).
Ash Wednesday is the official beginning of the Lenten season. It is a day of prayer and public confession of sins. In some churches the sign of the cross is made with ashes on the foreheads of believers. The early Israelites took the ashes from burnt offerings, mixed them with water, and sprinkled them over unclean persons (sinners) and their belongings (Numbers 19:17-18). In the third century, the church began the custom of burning the branches used on Palm Sunday; saving the ashes and marking sinners, such as robbers and murderers with these ashes. Out of sympathy, family and friends of these 'marked' persons began using the ashes also.
Palm or Passion Sunday is a day of change from the joyful celebration of Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem to the solemn knowledge of what lies ahead for him in the coming week. The custom of waving olive twigs in the procession began in the fourth century. It was not until about 400 years later that palm branches were first used, and they continue to be used today.
Maundy Thursday (from the Latin word "mandatum" or "commandment") focuses on the Lord's Supper and the new commandment to love one another.
Good Friday was probably first called God's Friday. On this day we remember Christ's suffering and death on the cross.
Prayer Points During Lent
1. Make Your Abstinence a Prayer-in-Action.
Whether abstaining from chocolate, coffee, that extra helping of dinner, one less hour of video games, watching DVDs or constantly looking at your handheld device—whatever it is, you can make what you’re giving up for Lent a prayer as well: a prayer-in-action. Whenever you encounter the thing you are abstaining from or the time of day that you would normally enjoy it, take a moment to say a prayer in recognition of your wholeness in God even without the thing you have given up. Thank God for the freedom to be wholly yourself without this and use those moments without it to acknowledge God’s presence in your life.
2. Renew Yourself Through Personal Reflective Prayer.
Lent is a time of spiritual renewal. One easy step you can take is to engage in personal reflective prayer. Take time to do self inventory and spiritual evaluation. Do not beat yourself up, but talk to God regarding your struggles, frustrations as well as your desires, hopes and dreams. Seek the Lord for guidance and direction. Reflect on where you once were, where you are now and ask the Lord how you can better serve in the kingdom of God.
3. Pray for Spiritual Renewal.
The more we give in to the flesh the more our lives stay the same. The more we yield to the Spirit the more we begin to look like Christ. Look for ways to revive your spirit. Make a conscious effort. Seek God and his will more intensely! Go deeper and let him solidify your faith. Let the Lord make your joy more complete even as you pray.
4. Meditate on Holy Scripture.
This method of prayer is characterized by the slow reading and consideration of a text from Scripture, with repetition and meditation on key words or phrases. God wants our thoughts to be His thoughts so that our actions will be in line with His actions, and meditation on Scripture is simply exchanging our faulty beliefs for the truths of God’s Word. Many of the mental problems, failure, and conflicts in our lives are simply results of faulty beliefs. Meditation on Scripture exchanges these lies for God’s truth.
5. Continual Praise and Worship as Prayer Time.
Prayers of thanksgiving are prayers giving thanks, being grateful to God for all His blessings upon our lives. Just look around you, there is so much to be thankful for. We can thank the Lord using scripture or just in our own words. Even in times of trials and tribulation we should give thanks to God. I know that it’s difficult sometimes to thank God when we’re hurting but the Word tells us that what was meant for evil He will use for good.
6. A Prayer Partner or Prayer Group During Lent.
There are many benefits to praying with others. A simple way to get started is to invite your spouse, a family member, or close friend to pray with you on a regular basis throughout Lent. You can also join prayer groups or prayer circles within your church. There is a definite benefit and blessing when praying with others believers.
7. Pray with children or as a family.
Being a parent, guardian, or teacher is a holy ministry and a sacred promise. Share your faith with children by letting them see and hear you pray, and by praying together.
8. Start a practice of daily prayer that will last after Lent.
Perhaps the best prayer advice is to use Lent as a time to instill prayer habits that will last long after Lent has concluded. Don’t be overly conflicted about the best time to pray. When you think about praying, that is the moment you should pray!
Fasting, Giving and Sharing Suggestions
You have the freedom and flexibility to choose anyone of these
ideas or combine several of them if you’d like just be sincere and
seek God during this time of reflection and discovery.
1. Choose to make water your only beverage during Lent.
2. Abstain from eating meat during Lent.
3. Make a commitment to fast from insensitive, cruel comments about others. So, no gossiping or going down the social media rabbit hole.
4. Donate the best of excess clothes, appliances and useful items to Goodwill, a local thrift store or anyone that may have a need.
5. Unplug—TV, Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, etc. This is perhaps the single best way to carve out some extra time in your day for prayer and meditation.
6. Pray for somebody. As you’re walking the streets, driving the highways, or sitting in your cubicle at work, pick out a person who appears to be in need and pray for that person.
7. Write a poem of praise for each person in your family.
8. Fast one or two specific days a week to reflect on what Jesus gave for us.
9. Begin a fast at 12 midnight (Sunday) to 12 noon the next day for six days (ending the following Saturday at noon) and use the Sunday as the day you break your fast and use that day to fellowship and break bread with brothers and sisters in Christ.
10. Keep a journal and reflect on the ways in which the Cross and Resurrection impacts your story.
11. Get up early every day to spend time in prayer.