Lent, journey to the heart of God

Here we are right on the cusp of the season of Lent (also, as many will note, today is Valentine’s Day!). Once again, we are presented with the opportunity to make ourselves ready over the course of the coming 40 days to receive the Easter gift of new life and new hope in the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. This is a gift we received once and for all 2000 years ago—and it is a gift that we receive afresh every year. Indeed, every time we need this gift and recognize the power of it for our daily lives, we receive it again. The gift of new life and new hope is inexhaustible!

Yet, Lent can often feel like a disheartening slog rather than a liberating journey to the heart of God. To be fair, Lent is a challenge, and it is challenging because we are called to truthfully examine our lives and deal with the parts that lead us away from God. Having this time specially set apart for this spiritual work is an opportunity as much as it is a challenge. The opportunity that Lent provides us is in taking up practices that help us focus and sustain our faith each day. Yes, Lent is a season of penitence but penitence for the sake of renewal!

And this process all begins with the stark honesty of Ash Wednesday—“remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Knowing that we are mortal, that our time on earth is limited, gives us the proper starting point to use the days of the Lenten season well. The outward mark of Lenten piety (ashes) is intended to remind us not to neglect our inward disposition (luminous souls). Understanding this is what will make our Lenten practices meaningful and purposeful beyond a mere routine of ‘giving something up’ for just over a month.

In the Episcopal Church, the traditional Lenten practices are laid out in the Book of Common Prayer, during the Ash Wednesday service: self-examination and repentance; prayer, fasting, and self-denial; reading and meditating on God’s holy Word. There are many ways to live out these disciplines in the particulars of our daily lives, and I’m happy to help you figure out how this might look in the specifics of your life. For instance, you may choose to follow the Life Transformed: The Way of Love in Lent calendar and commit yourself to each daily practice to help you observe the season. To all those disciplines I’d like to add a few more suggestions with practical tips:

  • Read a book that challenges and inspires spiritually. Read, mark, learn, inwardly digest, and finish it before Easter Eve!
  • Commit to attending worship at your church in Lent with a sharpened focus on the prayers and readings.
  • Make a thorough review of your life’s story. Then unburden yourself of any sins, obstacles, or stumbling blocks through the sacramental rite of confession with a priest or trusted spiritual confidante.
  • Reconcile a broken or estranged relationship. Don’t wait another year.
  • Give the money you will save from whatever you “give up” for Lent to a cause or organization that will materially benefit those in the greatest need in your community. You can donate to the work of Saint Francis Ministries by clicking here.
  • Find a “secret place” where you can be quiet and rest safely in the embrace of God in prayer. Start with 15, 10, or even 5 minutes of silence a day.

So if we are going to take up the invitation, as the Book of Common Prayer says, “to the observance of a holy Lent,” then we need to commit to our practices as if our very lives depended on them. Because, in fact, our lives depend upon them. May this Lenten season be for you a challenge, an opportunity, and a great gift!


Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

~Book of Common Prayer, p. 264

The Reverend Andrew O’Connor is Saint Francis Ministries’ Executive Officer for Mission and Ministry

Picture of Shane Schneider
Shane Schneider

Shane is the Editorial Content Manager for the Marketing and Communications Department at Saint Francis Ministries.

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