Reflections on the Lent Prayer Guide: Part One

Post a Comment » Written on March 12th, 2013     
Filed under: Featured Churches, Lent Campaign 2013, News & Updates
Written by Peter Dibley, Covenant pastor

Rev. Peter Dibley, pastor of First Evangelical Covenant in Rockford, IL

It is customary to fast and pray during the Lenten season. This year for Lent, I have been praying two sets of prayers. The first is the CKC Lenten Prayer Guide. The other is from “A Book of Prayers” by Art Nelson. I would like to share part of it with you.

Holy God, Servant Lord, your model of humility doesn’t fit well into our categories. Thank you for showing us that we don’t have to live and behave by everyone else’s social rules. Thank you for not changing your mind on the cross. Thank you for loving us to the end, from beginning to the end. When we are tempted to give you a list of things and changes we’d like you to give or make, remind us that what you only really give is your Spirit. We dare to believe that is what we need, and we’re strong to affirm the faith that such is what we freely receive.

What wondrous love is this, O my soul!

These prayers have affected my decision about what and why I should fast. While contemplating what I would give up for Lent, I read an article by Julie Clawson titled “Lent Isn’t About Denial — It’s About Transformation“. She takes aim at the practice of denial for the sake of denial. The title may be misleading as Clawson clearly indicates that denial is important for the Christian life, but only as a means to an end. That end is transformation. Self-denial begins the process that allows for transformation, because it takes something out of one’s life and creates a space for Christ. As Christ fills one’s life, that person can become more like Christ by loving people and caring for their needs. What I appreciate about the article is the question she asks, “What can I do to allow God to transform me this season?” This is a great question that points to the purpose of practicing Lent. Indeed, it is a question that one should ask everyday whether during Lent or Christmas or on vacation. So during Lent the practice of denying oneself a commodity like chocolate or coffee may be what one person needs for transformation. Denying oneself the pleasure of watching a TV show or movie may be a way to be transformed. Denying oneself of Facebook, Twitter, or texting during Lent may be transformative.

So how does all of this come together? How does the act of giving up coffee, chocolate, Facebook, etc. achieve transformation? Let me give some examples:

  • What if a person not only gave up eating chocolate as an act of self-denial for Lent, but made a commitment to buy fair trade/slave free chocolate once Lent was over?
  • What if a person who gives up TV or movies replaces that time with reading the Bible and praying?
  • What if a person who gives up online social networking starts a face-to-face small group that cares for the needs of others?

Maybe a person does not give up anything like I have suggested. Maybe a person makes the choice to only write positive comments on Facebook, or send encouraging texts, or maybe a person chooses to host a fair trade/slave free chocolate tasting.

Our church recently did a six week study through the book “The Hole In Our Gospel” by Richard Sterns. During this Lenten season we are discerning ways for how we can be about living the ‘whole gospel.’ One of those ways is to host a Hope Sunday. I would encourage all Covenant churches to consider this as another way to answer the question; “What can we do as a church and individuals to allow God to transform us and the world He cares so much about?”

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