‘Behold, we go up to Jerusalem’, these are the words of Jesus to his disciples, that we read from the Gospel before Ash Wednesday. They describe also, the journey that we are all invited to make in the season of Lent when we are encouraged in the name of the Church, to observe a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy word’. Lent is a time of struggle, but it is also a season of opportunity.
The Gospel reading in St Matthew Chapter 4 for the first Sunday of Lent describes the temptation of Christ in the wilderness. We learn that it was in fact the Spirit of God who led Jesus into the wilderness. The Spirit of God in us, if we will be moved by him, will lead us too into conflict with all that is contrary to God’s love and truth; in our own time it means being profoundly counter cultural. This is a point I make countless times. But the wilderness is also a place of refreshment and growth. I hope that we will all approach the season of Lent with hope, trusting that whatever efforts we make enable us in some small measure to prepare the soil of our hearts that the seed of faith given to us at Holy Baptism will grow more and more deeply in our lives. One basic challenge I guess is that it is difficult to take something on unless we make space for it, otherwise it is just a burden.
So how can we keep a holy Lent? Well, foremostly by prayer. Prayer describes our seeking after God and our communion with Him. Lent therefore is an opportunity to become more attentive to the life of prayer. This can simply be a part of our prayer, and of the preparation we make at the beginning of the service of Holy Communion. But it also includes prayer at home and not only in Church. There are many guides to prayer and ways to pray. Some people find the PACTS formula helpful (Pause, Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication or Asking) and some, like ourselves in the Vicarage have a particular place set aside for just that. In 2020-21 it was where I celebrated Holy Communion every Sunday with my family.
But whatever form you decide to use, it is important to find some regular time for daily prayer. Prayer shapes who we are and how we live. That which we can do at any time, we may find that we do at no time at all. Our lives are governed by so many extraneous things. We need to set time aside for God not as an add on to what we do in the day but our first priority. Lent is a season to orientate our spiritual compass towards God and not the passing temporal issues that seem to busy and clutter our minds.