By the time you are reading this the season of Lent will have just begun. These six weeks or so leading up to Easter recall the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness ‘being tempted by the devil’ prior to the beginning of his ministry.
During Lent some of us might exercise our own version of self denial by giving something up and resisting temptation, or perhaps you will take a more positive step and decide to do something extra as a method of self discipline. Sometimes this is easy to do, other times it is a real challenge but I wonder how many people make the link between Lent discipline and Lent discipleship. How often do we see Lent as an opportunity to think about our Christian journey and our walk with Jesus.
This doesn’t mean to say that all of a sudden we need to become terribly pious or holier-than-thou but perhaps we could try to ask ourselves what being a Christian, a follower of Christ means to us and whether the attitudes and actions of our lives reflect this. If we think that we need to change, or if our faith feels a bit like a wilderness experience in itself then perhaps Lent is a good time to address this.
Of course our own experiences of being in the wilderness, facing the trials and temptations of life are not limited to the 40 days of Lent. They can come at any time and affect us in many ways. Very often we are not able to prepare for them and we don’t know how long they will last. Neither is our wilderness experience always very dramatic (you could read the encounters that Jesus had with the devil as being quite exciting!) but instead could be seen as a daily weariness, despair, loneliness or even stagnation. It is hard sometimes to imagine how we might be released from such a state.
Lent reminds us however that Jesus too was tempted, that Jesus too was driven into the wilderness and was tested. We know that whatever it is that we face in our lives, Jesus has been there before us. Prayer then has to form part of the discipline of Lent, prayer that brings us closer to God, prayer that strengthens our relationship with Jesus, prayer that enables us to open our hearts to him and allows the Holy Spirit to move within us and encourage us on our journey of faith and our journey through life.
So whatever else you might be tempted give up for Lent don’t stop praying. It is both good discipline and healthy discipleship throughout this season and beyond.