Lent is the time of year when we give something up for 40 days. That’s what most people know, anyway. Yet Lent, in itself, is much more than just a time of giving up junk food or Netflix. This season holds a special meaning to Christians and is a time of spiritual preparation leading up to Easter. This season, we have prepared a Lenten Devotional and Activity Guide to walk you through the next several weeks, which we urge you to check out, but for this post, we’re going to cover, briefly, what Lent is and why it is meaningful to Christians.
In the early days of Christianity, many believers felt that the importance of Easter (when we celebrate Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection) called for special preparations. Lent as a period of 40 days of fasting was first mentioned in the Canons of Nicaea (AD 325). Some believe that this practice grew from the practice of those who were going to be baptized at Easter: they underwent a period of 40-day fasting in preparation for their baptisms. Eventually, the tradition of spiritual preparation expanded to include the entire church.
Why 40 Days?
The period of 40 days is based on two examples of spiritual tests in the Bible: the 40 years of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness after leaving Egypt (as seen in Numbers 33:38 and Deuteronomy 1:3), and the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness (also referred to as the Temptation of Jesus, found in Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, and Luke 4:1-13). The number 40 is significant in other books of the Bible, as well, including the flood and Noah’s ark (Genesis 7:4, 12, 17; 8:6); Moses fasting on the mountain before God gave him the Ten commandments (Exodus 24:18; 34:28; Deuteronomy 9); the spies who spent 40 days in Canaan (Numbers 13:25, 14:34); and Elijah traveling for 40 days and nights to reach the mountain of God in Sinai (1 Kings 19:8).
How we celebrate
Not all Christians celebrate Lent, but is mostly observed by Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Anglican denominations, as well as Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox churches. During the six weeks (or 40 days) of Lent, those who observe this period engage in self-examination and reflection, especially reflecting and acknowledging those things we regret or need to change (repentance). This often leads one to make a commitment to fast—or to give something up—like sweets or TV. They may also take on a new habit or discipline like reading the Bible and spending more time in prayer to draw closer to Jesus. The overall goal of fasting or trying a new discipline is to strengthen your faith and grow closer in your relationship with Jesus.
Resources for You
For this Lenten season, we have put together a 40-day Lenten prayer and activity guide, which is available virtually here
. Each week, we will upload the weekly prayer guides, audio recordings, and links to our weekly playlists. We hope you will enjoy these resources put together by a collaboration of staff here at Memorial Park! You can also check out The Lent Experience on RightNow Media
. As always, if you have questions, comments, or want to talk more about any of our blog topics, send us an email! We’d love to hear from you.