Summary: The season of Lent provides for us a time of renewal, commitment or recommitment, repentance and prayer.
Ever since 325 AD, we celebrate Easter on the first Sunday that occurs after the first full moon following the vernal equinox (March 21st.) As you know, the date of Easter changes from year to year and this is why. Easter will always be recognized between March 22nd and April 25th and only between these dates.
The main point is not when we celebrate Easter but more importantly why. Easter Sunday for Christians all over the world represents the single most important day in the year. Resurrection Sunday! The stone was rolled away early in the morning and the grave was empty! Jesus Christ rose from the dead and proved that the grave would not hold Him back from spending eternity at the right hand of His Father. On Easter morning, Jesus gave all believers for centuries to come the gift of hope – to spend eternal life in paradise with the Creator of the Universe.
In preparation for Easter Sunday, we recognize the Season of Lent. Lent is a 40 day season, excluding Sundays, leading up to Easter. Lent is a time of personal reflection, self-examination, renewal, perhaps commitment or recommitment, repentance and prayer. Think how many times the number 40 appears in Scripture. Moses spent 40 days and 40 nights on the top of Mount Sinai twice, the Israelites wandered the treacherous wilderness for 40 years and we know that Jesus spent 40 days in prayer and fasting to prepare for His ministry, which culminated in His death and resurrection. It is fitting for followers of Christ to imitate Him with a 40 day period of prayer and repentance to prepare for the celebration of His ministry’s climax, Good Friday, the day of crucifixion, and Easter Sunday, His resurrection.
I have made a commitment during the Season of Lent to devote even more time in prayer, reading God’s Word and listening for His voice in my life. I believe in meditation, spending time everyday with God. I long for a quiet mind. Yet I find that demands, busy schedules, special needs, or crisis can be a distraction if we allow them to interrupt our time alone with God. Martin Luther knew this well when he wrote “I have so much to do that I must spend the first three hours of each day in prayer!”
I read a most revealing article by well-known author Philip Yancy in the March issue of Christianity Today entitled “For God’s Sake – What 147 elk taught me about prayer.” Philip Yancy signed up for a five day spiritual retreat; being assured that he would hear the voice of God in his life. In addition to a daily assignment, his only requirement each day was to spend two hours in prayer. Mr. Yancy admitted that he probably had never spent more than 30 minutes at one time in prayer.
Listen to his words…..”The first day I wandered to the edge of a meadow and sat down with my back against a tree. I had brought along my assignment and a notebook to record my thoughts. “How long will I stay awake?” I wondered. To my great fortune a herd of 147 elk (I had plenty of time to count them) wandered into the very field where I was sitting. To see one elk is exciting; to watch 147 elk in their natural habitat is enthralling. But I soon learned that to watch 147 elk for two hours is, to put it mildly, boring. They lowered their heads and chewed grass. They raised their heads in unison to look at a raspy crow. They lowered their heads again to chew grass. For two hours nothing else happened. No mountain lions attacked; no bulls charged each other. They just chewed grass.
After awhile, the very placidity of the scene began to affect me. The elk had not noticed me and I simply melded into their environment, taking on their rhythms. I know longer thought about the work I left at home and the deadlines facing me. My body relaxed, my mind fell quiet. An elk does not have to work at having a quiet mind; it feels content standing in a field all day with its fellow elk, chewing grass. The lover does not have to work at attending to the beloved. I prayed for, and in a fleeting moment received, that kind of absorbed attention to God.”
During this Lenten Season, my prayer for you is that you will find time each day for quiet meditation with God. It doesn’t have to be in a far away field with a herd of elk, but it can be time spent with a quiet mind looking at the ocean, the green trees in a local park, or even sitting in your back yard listening to the symphony of God’s little birds. A quiet mind is good for the soul.