I love Lent. Really, I do. I love this season because it is a time of year when we are encouraged—no, challenged—to reflect. I am a girl who loves to think. I am also someone who believes it is my job on Earth to fulfill my potential by helping others to fulfill theirs. So why wouldn’t I welcome a season that calls for us to reflect on what to do more of or less of in order to be ALL of what God intends for us to be? Lent is a great fit for a purpose-driven, thinking girl like me.
The praying part of Lent is maybe, possibly, perhaps just slightly more challenging for me than the thinking part. Thinking is easy because I can set my own agenda for what I want to think about and when. It is active and sort-of hands on because I can take what I think and formulate decisions and actions based on whatever data I’ve chosen to consider. I can make those decisions and/or take those action steps immediately in most cases. Yes, there is an element of control to all of that. But that’s a topic for another post at another time.
Daily prayer takes more discipline and more patience. Prayer can be done almost anywhere, just like thinking can, but it is rarely a case of “data in, immediate decision out.” It takes discipline and patience to sit in prayer long enough to allow God and the Holy Spirit to speak to us. Even then, I find that the message I think I’m discerning (there’s the thinking process again) takes time to fully comprehend.
I start each Lenten season with good intentions. By the halfway mark I notice that I’ve allowed other activities to encroach on my prayer time. Before I know it, I’ve dropped back to two or three times a week counting Sunday. How is that any different from the rest of the year? It isn’t. Next thing I know, Easter is here in all its glory, and I have to ask if I really experienced what God had in mind for me and my spiritual growth.
I have decided to try something different this year. I already attend worship each week, and I am in a small group. Check. I’ve committed to completing our church-wide study of The Way and feel good about being able to complete that commitment. Check. I’m also going to commit to 15 minutes of prayer every morning using John Wesley’s Covenant Prayer at the end of this blog post. I know 15 minutes doesn’t sound like a lot, but 15 minutes is more than zero, right?
I love that we pray this prayer together as a congregation every January as a way to launch a new year. I also appreciate this simple, yet powerful prayer as a reminder that everything I am and everything I do is better when I approach God with humility and give Him more space to work in my life, not less. I was reminded of this last October when I had an opportunity to worship in the small chapel at Wesley’s last church, City Road, in London. I will write more about that humbling experience in another post. For now, the picture accompanying this post shows the spare chapel and the Communion rail that I kneeled at along with 14 other parishioners that October morning. It was pouring rain, and City Road is a bit of a walk from the subway. All except myself and my friend were regular attenders. The Church Superintendent knew everyone else by name, and by the end of the service he knew ours, too. If my 14 new friends could keep their prayer commitment on a day that most would call too bitterly cold and wet to go out in, can I not find 15 minutes a day to kneel in my warm, cozy house to give my humble attention to God?
I think I can. Who is with me?
Wesley’s Covenant Prayer
I am no longer my own but yours.
Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing, put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you,
exalted for you, or brought low for you;
let me be full, let me be empty,
let me have all things, let me have nothing:
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours.
And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.