By Christianity.com Editorial Staff, Crosswalk.com
What Is Lent?
So where does Lent come from, and how do we "do" Lent? The Lenten season developed as part of the historical Christian calendar and is typically celebrated by Catholics and some mainline Protestant churches that follow a liturgical calendar. Although its format has varied throughout the centuries and throughout different cultures, the basic concept remains the same: to open our hearts to God's refining grace through prayer, confession, fasting, and almsgiving as we anticipate Holy Week. Lent traditionally lasts forty days, modeled after Christ's forty-day fast in the desert, and ends on Good Friday. In the Western Church, Lent officially begins with a reminder of our mortality on Ash Wednesday.
Praying and Fasting for Lent
Fasting and Prayer: Fasting is a practice that has really gone by the wayside in many Christian circles. Yet, if done correctly, it can be a powerful time of renewing your relationship with God. Fasting can be found in both the Old Testament and the New, with Moses (Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 9:9-18), Elijah (1 Kings 19:8), and our Lord (Matthew 4:2) all participating in 40-day fasts. Fasting is a way of denying ourselves the excesses of life so that we might be more attuned to the Lord's voice. It is also a way of disciplining yourself, strengthening your "spiritual muscles" so to speak so that when temptations arise in life, you are already used to saying "no" to your desires. And finally, fasting is also a way of participating, in a small way, in the sufferings of Christ and can be particularly powerful when accompanied by prayer and confession.
Excerpts for What is Lent? from Crosswalk.com
10 Prayers for Lent
1. Lent Prayer for Strength and Guidance
Lord God Almighty, shaper and ruler of all creatures, we pray for your great mercy, that you guide us towards you, for we cannot find our way.
And guide us to your will, to the need of our soul, for we cannot do it ourselves. And make our mind steadfast in your will and aware of our soul’s need.
Strengthen us against the temptations of the devil, and remove from us all lust and every unrighteousness, and shield us against our foes, seen and unseen.
Teach us to do your will, that we may inwardly love you before all things with a pure mind. For you are our maker and our redeemer, our help, our comfort, our trust, our hope; praise and glory be to you now and forever.
Source: Alfred the Great, 9th century
2. Protect from Any Temptation
O Christ, Son of God, for our sake you fasted forty days and allowed yourself to be tempted. Protect us so that we may not be led astray by any temptation. Since man does not live by bread alone, nourish our souls with the heavenly food of your Word; through your mercy, O our God, you are blessed and live and govern all things, now and forever. Amen.
Source: Freely modified from Mozarabic Collects
3. Lent Prayer for Strength and Protection
Lord God, heavenly Father, you know that we are set in the midst of so many and great dangers, that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright: Grant us such strength and protection, to support us in all danger, and carry us through all temptations; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Source: Martin Luther, the German Litany
4. Lent Prayer for God to bring beauty from ashes:
In this season of Lent, we’re reminded of our own difficulties and struggles. Sometimes the way has seemed too dark. Sometimes we feel like our lives have been marked by such grief and pain, we don’t see how our circumstance can ever change. But in the midst of our weakness, we ask that you would be strong on our behalf. Lord, rise up within us, let your Spirit shine out of every broken place we’ve walked through. Allow your power to be manifest through our own weakness, so that others will recognize it is You who is at work on our behalf. We ask that you would trade the ashes of our lives for the beauty of your Presence. Trade our mourning and grief for the oil of joy and gladness from your Spirit. Trade our despair for hope and praise. We choose to give you thanks today and believe that this season of darkness will fade away. Thank you that you are with us in whatever we face and that you are greater than this trial. We know and recognize that you are Sovereign, we thank you for the victory that is ours because of Christ Jesus, and we are confident that you have good still in store for our future. We thank you that you are at work right now, trading our ashes for greater beauty. We praise you, for you make all things new. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
by Debbie McDaniel.
5. Lead Us to Love You Sincerely
O Lord Jesus Christ, by your almighty power you opened the eyes of the blind, and showed yourself to them. Turn our eyes away from worthless things, and lead us to love you sincerely; through your mercy,
O our God, you are blessed, and live and govern all things, now and forever. Amen.
Source: Freely modified from Mozarabic Collects
6. Lent Prayer for a Clean Heart
Create a clean heart in me, O God: a humble heart, a meek heart, a peaceful heart, a benevolent heart, a devout heart which does evil to no one, which does not repay evil for evil, but overcomes evil with good, which loves you above all things, thinks always about you, speaks about you, gives you thanks, delights in hymns and spiritual songs, and has its citizenship in heaven. Amen.
Source: Girolamo Savonarola
7. Defend Us from All Enemies
O Lord, mercifully hear our prayer and stretch forth the right hand of your majesty to defend us from all enemies that rise up against us; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Source: Gregorian Sacramentary, 8th Century, Historic Collect for the First Sunday in Lent
8. Lent Prayer for Strength
O God, you see that we have no strength in ourselves. Keep us both outwardly and inwardly. Defend us from all adversities which hurt the body, and cleanse us from all evil thoughts which afflict the mind; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Source: Gregorian Sacramentary, 8th Century, Historic Collect for the Second Sunday in Lent
9. Lent Prayer for Defense
Almighty God, look on the humble desires of your servants. Stretch forth the right hand of your majesty and be our sure defense; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Source: Gregorian Sacramentary, 8th Century, Historic Collect for the Third Sunday in Lent
10. Lent Prayer for the Comfort of God's Grace
Almighty God, grant that we who deserve to be afflicted for our evil deeds may mercifully be relieved by the comfort of your grace; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Source: Gregorian Sacramentary, 8th Century, Historic Collect for the Fourth Sunday in Lent
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