As of yesterday, Lent has begun, the 40 days leading up to Easter. Historically this was the period of preparation for people who wanted to be baptised. In order to help them prepare elements of fasting was practised as a spiritual discipline which has lead to people giving stuff up for Lent, such as sugar in your coffee, or even sugar completely, or even (and this is quite extreme) giving up coffee completely (not recommended for normal folk). Personally I've decided to give up rhino meat on my sandwiches. But Lent can be so much more.
Perhaps you might be interested in practising a spiritual discipline during this period?
In Richard Foster’s seminal book “Celebration of Discipline” he has three categories of spiritual disciplines:
The Inward Disciplines:
The Outward Disciplines:
The Corporate Disciplines:
Another prominent author on spiritual disciplines is Dallas Willard. He uses two categories. The first, “Disciplines of Abstinence,” are designed to help us remove destructive and unhelpful things from our lives through acts that force us to stop, wait, remove, or eliminate. The “Disciplines of Engagement” are intended to build the right kinds of attitudes and habits into our daily lives.
Disciplines of Abstinence
Solitude: The practice of spending time without any others or any distractions.
Silence: No noise or conversation. Just you and God.
Fasting: Abstain from food, media, entertainment, or anything else that occupies your time.
Frugality: Use your money for purposes outside your own needs for a time.
Chastity: 1 Corinthians 7:8, “Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
Secrecy: Do not allow anyone to know of the deeds you do or the money you give in order to avoid doing them for the wrong motivations. Only God needs to know.
Sacrifice: Stretch your sense of what you can do without for the sake of those who have less.
Disciplines of Engagement
Study: Memorize Scripture and expand your universe of biblical study helps.
Worship: Engage in corporate worship and include worship in your own prayer time.
Celebration: Practice being grateful and thankful both in your own relationship with Christ and with other believers. Express encouragement and thankfulness to others.
Service: Give your time to the church and/or to others. Ponder tithing your time.
Prayer: Take deliberate steps to pray regularly and with purpose. Praying through the Psalms is a good way to increase your “prayer vocabulary.”
Fellowship: Hebrews 10:25, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Confession: Practice confessing your sins to trusted people who will pray with you and be spiritual allies.
Submission: Submit to the proper people in the proper ways—fight against the sin of pride.
Over to you: what do you think about practising a spiritual discipline that you don’t normally practise over the Lent period?