As in some previous years I am proposing to blog through Lent this year – taking my day off. I thought I would start by looking at how we might use Lent.
During Lent we are traditionally invited to Pray, to give Alms and to Penance. I have a suspicion that the attention given to these is in the reverse order, and penance often means giving up something trivial like chocolate (guilty as charged).
This Lent I want to look at Prayer, because I think that if we take Lent seriously then it is about changing ourselves (for the better), and the way that we do that is through prayer.
One of the Desert Fathers said:
I think there is no labour greater than that of prayer to God. For every time we want to pray, our enemies, the demons, want to prevent us, for they know that it is only by turning us from prayer that they can hinder our journey.
We may, perhaps, hold different views of demons, but I think that the idea that praying is difficult holds good, and I think it can be explained by the fact that in praying we are opening ourselves to change, and most of us don’t like change. Not only do we not like it, but at times when we are ill, or tired, or … change is hard, and that means that at these times prayer is hard too.
The ancients tell the story of the distressed person who came to the Holy One for help. “Do you really want a cure?” the Holy One asked. “If I did not, would I bother to come to you?” the disciple answered. “Oh, yes,” the Master said. “Most people do.” And the disciple said, incredulously, “But what for then?” And the Holy One answered, “Well, not for a cure. That’s painful. They come for relief.”
This story points us to the same conclusion – that change is painful. Most clergy I know ran away from the call to ordination – the training is a process which is designed to change you, and if you don’t let it you are not letting God shape you for his purposes. But it doesn’t stop there.
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Not in the sense of being ideal or spotless, but in the sense of being mature. We are all called to continue growing throughout our life.
So this Lent, I suggest that you might like to focus on prayer. Prayer with the aim of letting God change you. There are lots of different types of prayer, and some are more open to changing you than others. Praying set prayers might help – but probably only if you give yourself some time to reflect on what it is you have prayed, and on what impact it might have on you. Prayers for others are good too, but again without some time for reflection are less likely to change you.
There are a number of web sites which can help you to pray in this reflective way, listed below.
What are you going to do this Lent? Whatever it is I wish you a holy and joyful one.
https://www.churchofengland.org/ set prayer – but with time for reflection. You can also join us at 9:30am on a Tuesday at St John’s.
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