Ash Wednesday and Lent for a Pentecostal church

Ash Wednesday was on Wednesday 6 March 2019. It marked the beginning of Lent – a period of 40 days of preparation for Good Friday and Easter.
The church tradition is that this period of 40 days, similar to Jesus 40 days of fasting, is for soul care – taking time to slow down, reflect, pray, fast and repent. The period of seeking God would lead to personal revival and ascend with a church celebration of Christ’s resurrection power in Easter.

As a Pentecostal I am not used to observing Lent. It was Trinity Theological College that exposed me to this. It took a long time for me to appreciate the values of having a rhythm to the church year. Observing Lent, Good Friday and Easter, and Pentecost are good practices that embeds the centrality of Christ in the church’s worship and plans. May I encourage you to do some of the following as the Lord leads:

PRAY
Give a half day to God in reflection and prayer.
Pray for unsaved family members, friends, neighbours and colleagues.
Pray in tongues for 15 minutes each day for a whole week.
Meditate on the passages of the last week of Jesus and use them as a springboard of prayer.
FAST
Skip a meal and use that time to humble yourself before God, acknowledging your shortcomings, powerlessness and need of Him.
Go vegetarian for a week and give up sweet stuff.
Fast from negative words and complaining and gossiping.
Fast from social media for a whole day.
REPENT
Seek forgiveness and forgive where necessary.
Speak kind and appreciative words to family members.
Repent from worrying and entrust specifically your burdens to God.
Visit and honour your aged parents or grandparents.
Listen to someone’s story without judging, or interrupting or offering solutions.
Pay attention to those who may need your help.

Have a meaningful, reviving, enlightening Lent. How would you like to use Lent for your own soul-care?

Lent: Prayer of the Inward Journey

The inward journey is like caving: a guide is a must.

A relevant prayer for Lent season. You can call it the soul searching prayer. Or better still I would call it the prayer of inward journey.

Search me, O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts, And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!  (Psalm 139:23,24 ESV)

This is a well known and beloved Psalm. In verses 1-6, shows us that God knows all; and verses 7-12 tells us God is everywhere; and 13-18 tells us God is our loving and wise Creator. In verses 19-22 the Psalmist prays against those who rise up against such a wonderful God. He hates them and prays for them to experience the worst! Then suddenly in verse23,24 his tone changes and he prays that famous prayer, Search me O God…. Its like he is praying, Lord I don’t want to be like these guys who rise up and fight against Your love and power. See if there is even a tiny bit of them in me, for I want to be rid of that and be changed by your power. Instead please lead me to the everlasting path instead of the path that leads to grief.

This is indeed a prayer we all need to use when we feel disturbed, upset or hurt. When we lost our peace and feel out of sorts and in disequilibrium, we can seek God’s help in understanding what He wants to show us about ourselves and Himself.

Its a prayer that sends me inwards to look at my heart, my thoughts, and even “any grievous way” in me. The Hebrew for “grievous” denotes forced labour, or the fruit of sorrow, bondage and misery it brings. This inward journey can be daunting and intimidating.

That’s why it has to be a guided tour. The Psalmist invites God to be his guide on this inward journey. I wouldn’t go on this journey alone. It is fraught with the dangers of discouragement, self-hatred and condemnation. However with this God who loves me, has forgiven me, and dealt forever with all my sins past present and future, I have no fear, only assurance and peace that this journey will heal and help me, not harm me.

Lastly, its a blessed journey because there are many blessings. One blessing is increased self-knowledge. Another blessing is knowing which areas of weakness Satan will seek to tempt me. I can watch and pray at those particular weak areas in my defence.

 

Beyond regular habits of prayer and Bible reading

QT

We are creatures of habit and this can be used to great advantage for the cultivation of a spiritual life. Regular habits of silence, solitude, examen, lectio divina and journaling have been established in my life over the last few years. This helps me greatly, but I want more.

More recently, I have been listening through the whole Bible online. I am now listening to audio readings of Exodus and Mark at the YouVersion Bible app. I am encouraged that it is more viable than I thought possible. Going through the Bible is a challenge for me. Now I have even gone through the complex book of Job which to me is quite an achievement. This helps me greatly but I want more.

There were several moments in recent weeks when I felt a holy discontent. Where it sprang from I cannot remember. They were invitations from a heavenly source. An invitation to go beyond routines and habits as important as these were. An invitation to love God with first love, with desire, passion, enthusiasm, and emotions. An invitation to love God with more than just my intellect and will.

We are to live out our spirituality by faith without depending heavily on our emotions. However, if will and mind set on following God can be accompanied by strong love and passion for my Lord in this long journey called life, why not? Having a love relationship devoid of emotions all my life is not my idea of a real relationship. God did not create emotions, desires and passions in me only to want it set aside when He relates to me. He wants my soul and desires to want Him and enthrone Him too.

I now pray more often for this grace: “Lord grant me a passionate love for You. I want to be able to love You with all my mind… AND emotions AND passion AND desires. Help me return to the first love.”

I know I cannot manufacture this. It’s not sustainable. It has to be a gift. A grace. So I ask in faith and wait patiently for Him to stir my affections as I seek Him during Lent.

Jesus said, “The first in importance is, ‘Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’ (Mark 12:29,30 The Message)