The season of Lent begins this week, which in the traditional Church calendar is a 40-Day period set aside for greater prayer, repentance, and reflection in preparation for the celebration of Easter.
Lent is not in the Bible, but the idea behind observing it is certainly biblical. Ancient Israel observed an annual rhythm of worship built around festivals and feast days which chronicled God’s acts of salvation in her history. The Church “calendar” similarly takes us on a journey of worship as we remember our own history, centered on the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord. So we invite each of you to take that journey with us.
How will we commemorate Lent this year? First and foremost, by calling all of our people into a season of increased prayer. And so throughout these next six weeks, we’ll provide regular, if not daily, reminders and resources to help us grow in prayer, including devotions, quotes, testimonies, and a couple worship gatherings for the entire church family to gather in prayer.
On one level, prayer is as natural as breathing. Maybe you heard the story of a loud and boisterous five year old boy who kept talking out loud during the worship service one Sunday. Finally, in exasperation, the boy’s father slung him over his shoulder and rushed him out of the sanctuary. As they got to the door, the boy called out loudly for the entire church to hear, ‘Y’all pray for me now!’ See, even a child gets prayer.
Having talked with God most of my life, I cannot imagine what it’s like for a person who goes through their day not even having a God-thought, let alone talking to him. To see a beautiful sunset and not be able to complete the moment by saying, “God, you’re just showing off now!” To face temptation and not be able to cry out, “Lord, help. I’m sinking fast. Help me!” To have an important decision to make and not say, “Jesus, show me the way. Be my wisdom.” I can’t imagine doing life without prayer.
And yet, though prayer is a childlike instinct of our hearts (not childish but childlike; there’s a difference), prayer is a puzzle for most of us, to be honest. There’s so much about prayer that’s unfathomable. How do you talk to a being that you can’t see with your eyes or hear with your ears? If God’s all-knowing, then that means he knows what I’m going through, so why pray? If God’s all-powerful, then why didn’t my prayer do anything? Is there a right way and wrong way to do it?
Jesus’ own disciples watched Jesus’ prayer habits – how he went off each morning before the day got started to be alone with the Father; how after busy stretches the first thing Jesus did to recharge was pray; how he talked to God with such familiarity, as if God were right there. And with such love, tenderly calling out to him, ‘Father!’ like a child reaching for their daddy. Then they looked at their own prayer habits, and all they had been taught, and in comparison with Jesus, it all seemed so pitiful. Is it any wonder they came up to Jesus one day and said, “Lord, teach us how to pray!” (Luke 11:1)
So let’s begin this season by admitting our smallness before this vast frontier of prayer, and let’s invite our Lord to teach us afresh how to pray. Some of the themes we’ll cover this month include:
- How do we prepare to pray?
- What do you say when you pray?
- What about unanswered prayer?
- If prayer is meant to be a conversation, how do I hear God’s voice?
- Should I use written prayers?
- What is fasting for, and how do you do it?
- What is intercession?
What about your questions? We’d like this to be a conversation of sorts. If you have questions about prayer, please send them to us. If you have 30 Second Stories about what you’ve learned about prayer or how you’ve experienced God’s presence and power in prayer, we’d love to hear them.
Let’s begin this journey of Lent together. Here’s a prayer to get us started.
Our Father in heaven, in the Garden of Eden you walked regularly with the humans you created, and enjoyed beautiful fellowship and conversation with them. Now in this age of sin, when there is a separation between us, you have ordained prayer as one way for us to enjoy a form of that fellowship with you. Our desire during this season of Lent is to grow in our understanding and practice of prayer. Jesus, be present with us through your Holy Spirit, and as with your first disciples, would you teach us how to pray? And learn to love to pray. Make us teachable. Draw us into your presence. In your holy name, Amen.
Bear Clifton, writer and screenwriter, is the pastor of BridgeWay Community Church in California, Maryland. His blogs, screenplays and devotionals can be enjoyed at his ministry website: trainyourselfministry.com and his writing website: blclifton.com. Bear is also the author of “Train Yourself To Be Godly: A 40 Day Journey Toward Sexual Wholeness”, “Ben-Hur: The Odyssey”, “A Sparrow Could Fall”, and his latest – “Living Under The Cross”, a collection of essays on the Beatitudes – all available through Amazon.