[Jesus] fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. – Matthew 4:2 (NRSV)
It’s the Season of Lent. So, let’s consider the importance of putting the “P” back in Lent. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “There is no ‘P’ in Lent!” Well, that very thinking is the problem we need to address. There is indeed a “P” in Lent, but most of us have long forgotten it. The “P” I’m referring to represents a word that describes the very purpose and meaning of Lent. The word is prepare.
Lent is an important time for us to prepare. But, what are we to prepare? We are to prepare our lives and our hearts for the coming of Easter and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, and for the movement of God’s Spirit in the ministry work to which we are called.
Lent is an important time for us to prepare. But, why are we to prepare? For this answer, we look to our teacher and example, Jesus Christ. Listen to this scripture verse from the Gospel of Matthew, “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (v. 4:1).
I find it interesting that the Holy Spirit led Jesus, at this particular time in his life and ministry, to (of all places) the wilderness. Why now, and why there? The timing, of course, could not be better. Jesus has just been baptized and would soon begin the ministry work God called him to do. However, before Jesus could begin his ministry, he had to prepare himself for it. Even Jesus, who is God Incarnate, knew the importance of and the need for preparation in his life.
Jesus needed time in the wilderness, away from everyone and everything to fellowship with God, to focus all his thoughts and energies on the task ahead, and to prepare his heart for the long, torturous road to Golgotha. In doing so, however, Jesus subjected himself to the very presence of the devil himself. But, Satan’s temptations became a vital part of Jesus’ preparation for his ministry. By overcoming temptations when he was most vulnerable, Jesus gained the wisdom, confidence, strength, passion and spirit required to accomplish God’s purpose and plan.
I don’t know about you, but if Jesus felt the need to prepare for his ministry, then who am I to say I don’t need to prepare for the ministry God has for me? Indeed, all of us who profess to be Christians, who claim to be disciples of Christ, must constantly prepare our lives and our hearts for God. In the words of Oswald Chambers, “It is easy for us to imagine that we will suddenly come to a point in our lives where we are fully prepared, but preparation is not suddenly accomplished. In fact, it is a process that must be steadily maintained. It is dangerous to become settled and complacent in our present level of experience. The Christian life requires preparation and more preparation.”
Lent is an important time for us to prepare. But, how are we to prepare? Let’s look again to Jesus for our answer. Mat-thew 4:2 says, “[Jesus] fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished.” Jesus went into the wilderness and fasted. And, while it’s not specifically stated in this verse, we can be assured that Jesus went into the wilderness and prayed. In other words, Jesus used the disciplines of praying and fasting to help him prepare for the ministry, and to teach us how we are to prepare for ours.
Prayer is the integral part of our relationship with God. Prayer is a holy communion between God, our divine Creator and loving Father and us, God’s precious creation and adopted children. When we pray, we open ourselves to the awe-some presence of God and the transforming movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives. When we pray, we experience a level of honesty and vulnerability that leads to total reverence, surrender, worship and praise. The discipline of prayer re-stores our strength, revitalizes our spirit and renews our soul. The discipline of prayer leads us to a higher level of trust and love in our covenant relationship with God. Like Jesus, who made prayer a priority in his life, we need to make prayer an essential part of our relationship with God, our Father.
While most of us are familiar with and have experienced the discipline of praying, we are not as familiar with nor have we ever necessarily experienced the discipline of fasting. When we think of fasting, what immediately comes to mind is giving up food. However, fasting is much more important and meaningful than that. Fasting means we give up something that is currently taking up much of our time and occupying much of our lives so we will spend more time in prayer and fellowship with God. The discipline of fasting enables us to dedicate more of our lives to God. This second part of the definition of fasting is vitally important and usually ignored.
Are you prepared for Easter and God’s call in your life? Or, do you need to spend some valuable time this Lent prepar-ing yourself as Jesus himself did – through the disciplines of praying and fasting? If so, then I encourage, even challenge, you to put the “P” back in Lent. Spend some much needed time and effort to prepare yourself. With Jesus as your teacher, example and companion, discipline yourself to pray and fast – and not just during Lent, but also through the whole year.
Just a thought.
Gather. Glorify. Grow. Go.