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A Recipe for the Season of Lent


Today, on Ash Wednesday, we begin Lent. It is such a blessing to see Christians around the world taking part in these 40 days of fasting, prayer, and giving to the poor. I pray that we take advantage of the invaluable opportunities that we have to serve outwardly and to search inwardly throughout this season.


A week or so ago, while preparing for Lent, I searched for recipes for tasty meals that could coincide with my Lenten fast. Fortunately, I came across one that was not necessarily intended for the body, but would undoubtedly be good for the soul. The recipe is found in 2 Chronicles 7:14:


…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

These words are a part of God’s response to King Solomon’s dedication of the temple. Accordingly, as people of God dedicate our temples in this Lenten season, let us remember that using the following four “ingredients” will undoubtedly have transformative effects on our lives and our communities.


The Four Ingredients:


1. Humility

This first ingredient is necessary for activating the others. Humbling ourselves involves subduing egoism and overcoming any ambitions to aggrandize power and control over other people. Even when having the greatest intentions, no one is totally immune to the temptation of pride. It sneaks up on us when we least expect it, as it preys upon our natural desire for affirmation, attention, and appreciation. Pride can also hinder our potential, as it often undergirds offense, obstinacy, reproach, and entitlement.

Conversely, humility fosters our personal growth because it helps us to recognize our limitations, ask for help, accept responsibility, and welcome feedback. Through humility, we become less self-centered and more Christ-centered, which is the best heart posture for adding the second ingredient…


2. Prayer

Our communication with our Creator is one of the greatest, and yet most undervalued, privileges that we have as believers. Prayer is such a common part of our religious practice that it is easy to take for granted and miss out on the open and ongoing opportunity to submit our concerns, praises, and supplications to our living and listening God. However, let us avoid the traps of busyness and self-sufficiency, and let us pray… with intentionality, consistency, and intensity. Let us intercede compassionately for our neighbors, families, leaders, and communities, generously lifting up the ongoing needs, tragedies, injustices, disasters, and violence occurring in our world.


I understand that for many people prayer feels like a chore and is treated as a last resort, but in this Lenten season, we are reminded to make it a top priority. After all, prayer is not something that we have to do. It is something that we get to do. It sits at the very core of our relationship with God. Therefore, prayer is not only an occasion to speak. It is a time to meditate, contemplate, and listen. Through prayer, we increase our intimacy with God and become more attentive to the direction of the Holy Spirit. As we pray we become more aware of God’s presence, which takes us to the third ingredient…


3. Seeking God’s Face

As we enter the presence of God, let us take time to behold the magnificence, love, beauty, power, and great mysteries of Jehovah. Let us also remember with thanksgiving that it is we who are created in the Imago Dei (image of God) and resist all reductionist temptations to shape God into our image. In seeking God’s face we are reminded to not only be thankful for what our Heavenly Father does, but to grow in our appreciation of who the great I AM is, understanding that this holy mission of discovery and enlightenment is truly a lifelong endeavor.


Therefore, let us look beyond the tunnel vision of our own experiences and consider the testimonies of the great cloud of witnesses, both in the Bible and around the world, who testify to a vast array of ways that God has interacted with humanity over time. During this lenten season of prayer, fasting, and giving, we are called to turn away from the many distractions that so easily entangle our time, energy, and resources and refocus our attention on discerning the wisdom, ways, and will of God. After all, it is what we seek, not what we say, that exposes the true desires of our heart, which brings us to the fourth and final ingredient…


4. Turning from Our Wicked Ways

The word, “wicked” may be objectionable to many of us. As Christians, this is a designation that we may give to people whom we deem to have evil habits, corrupt morals, and/or ill intentions. However, none of us are perfect and we all do, say, and think things that we should not.


Thankfully, Lent invites us to engage in the spiritual practices of introspection and repentance, through which we gain a greater awareness of our own secret sins that cause misery, calamity, and distress, and we recognize the hidden transgressions that contribute to the hardships and adversities of others. Throughout these processes let us ask the Holy Spirit to help us inspect our motives and actions, admit to our shortcomings, and commit to live differently, as seen in this heartfelt plea of the psalmist David, who said,


Search me, God, and know my heart;

test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting.

(Psalm 139:23-24)


Whether we practice Lent, or not, I pray that each of us would consider this recipe and add these ingredients to our daily lives. Let us remember that the purpose of this is higher than gaining personal piety and religious asceticism.


The impact of this Lenten season will be greater when we remember that we are being invited to both individual participation and collective action, as we pray for God to hear, respond, forgive, and heal our land.


AMEN.

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