Lenten Disciplines For ASSIST-JC and Other Followers of Jesus
March 3, 2017
The purpose of this Lenten Calendar is to help you observe the forty day period of prayer, penance and spiritual exercises in preparation for the proper celebration of Easter.
To discipline yourself, to refuse to give in to your "I want it now" side because you have promised God for these 40 days that you will deny yourself. This is your gift back to God for His gift to us in Jesus Christ.
"Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand..."
-God (as quoted in Jeremiah 18:6)
The Lenten Discipline consists of three separate parts:
Corporal or External Fasts
This includes the abstinence from certain foods, drinks and amusements, i.e. music and parties during Lent. You are encouraged to choose an external fast simply because we seldom discipline our appetites in this culture.
Spiritual or Internal Fasts
This includes abstinence from "all evil" - sin. St. John Chrysostom (347-407A.D.) taught that "...the value of fasting consists not so much in abstinence from food but rather in withdrawal from sinful practices." St. Basil the Great (329-379A.D.) explains, "Turning away from all wickedness means keeping our tongue in check, restraining our anger, suppressing evil desires and avoiding all gossip, lying and swearing. To abstain from these things - herein lies the true value of fast!"
This includes the practice of virtues and good works as positive actions. These are intentional replacements of the negative actions being eliminated during Lent. The great leaders of the Christian Church during its early years (known as the Church Fathers) insisted that during Lent, the faithful attend as many Lenten worship services as possible.
"In order be Christians, we should resemble Christ; of this I am firmly convinced. Gandhi once said that if Christians lived according to their faith, there would be no more Hindus left in India. People expect us to be consistent with our Christian life."
Many, if not most, Protestants have abandoned the practice of Lenten Discipline or reduced it to a simple, "What are you giving up for Lent?" without any stress on one's spiritual growth or amending one's life-style. Lent is a journey alongside Jesus as he makes his way to the cross. Lent is not a project to be completed, it is a spiritual sojourn in another realm...use this spiritual opportunity well.
"Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me - put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you."
-St. Paul (Philippians 4:8-9)
The following are Lenten Disciplines that have aided Christians in the past to experience a holy and fruitful Lent. Make every effort to choose one from each list...or determine your own. Do not be overly ambitious. Better to begin with small steps...
External Fast Practices
At meals, take smaller portions of what you like and more of what you dislike
Take smaller helpings of each item
Eat and drink nothing between meals
Use no sweeteners in food or drink
Eliminate caffeine from your diet (as found in coffee, tea, soda, chocolate)
Reduce or eliminate the radio, TV, or video and instead read spiritually uplifting material (Scripture, Christian biographies, etc.)
Pray the daily prayers and attend Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer and Sunday Worship
Internal Fast Practices
Avoid unnecessary talking; instead pray silently
Exercise patience in all things with everyone
Don't complain about anything
Curb anger and go out of your way to be kind to those who anger you most
Don't concern yourself with another's business
Avoid gossip and add nothing if gossip creeps into conversations around you
When asked to do something extra, do so with a joyful and pleasant attitude
Speak in a pleasant tone to everyone... especially in your family
Avoid using the telephone
Tell the truth in all your dealings
Avoid any vanity or calling attention to self
Spiritual Change Practices
Practice humility in all your actions
Be generous; help someone in need
Look for opportunities to be helpful
Do a job that needs to be done on your own
Be courageous; walk away from impure situations
Don't be idle. Do something for others
Go out of your way to help or talk to a person whom you find unusually difficult
Suggested Prayers for Lent
My soul's desire is to see Your face and rest in Your house. My soul's desire is to study the Scriptures and learn Your ways. My soul's desire is to be free of fear and sadness and to share in Christ's risen life. My soul's desire is to imitate You, my King, and sing Your praises always. My soul's desire is to enter the gates of heaven and gaze upon the light that shines forever. Oh Lord, You alone know what my soul truly desires and You alone can satisfy those desires. Amen (adapted Celtic Prayer)
A Confession of Sin
O Lord, I come to You to confess my sin and seek Your forgiveness. Forgive the sins I can remember and also the sins I have forgotten. Forgive the wrong actions I have committed and the right actions I have omitted. Forgive the times I have been weak in the face of temptation and those when I have been stubborn in the face of correction. Forgive the times I have been proud of my own achievements and those when I have failed to boast of Your works. Forgive the harsh judgments I have made of others and the leniency I have shown to myself. Forgive the lies I have told to others and the truths I have avoided. Forgive the pain I have caused others and the indulgence I have shown to myself. O Lord though my sins are like scarlet, wash me and they shall be as white as snow, though my sins are red as crimson, forgive me and they shall be like wool. Amen
A Daily Prayer
O Lord, grant me to greet this day in peace. Help me in all things to rely upon Your holy will. In every hour of this day reveal Your will to me. Bless my dealings with all who surround me. Teach me to treat all that comes to me throughout this day with peace of soul and firm conviction that Your will governs all. In all my deeds and words, guide my thoughts and feelings. In unforeseen events, let me not forget that all are sent by You. Teach me to act firmly and wisely without embittering or embarrassing others. Give me strength to bear the fatigue of this coming day with all that it shall bring. Direct my will. Teach me to pray. You, Lord, pray within me. Amen (An ancient Greek Orthodox prayer)