40 Ideas for Lent (2013)

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free
'Prayer Time (Lent 6)' photo (c) 2008, Cathy Stanley-Erickson - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

As has become a tradition here on the blog, I’ve compiled a list of 40 ideas that I hope will help you make the most of this season of reflection, penitence, and preparation. This year’s list includes many of your suggestions, which I gathered from the comment section here. Thank you so much for your input and ideas! They made this year's list one of the best. 

5 Questions to Ask Yourself:

1. When I wake up on Resurrection Sunday morning, how will I be different? 

2. Is there a habit or sin in my life that repeatedly gets in the way of loving God with my whole heart or loving my neighbor as myself? How do I address that habit over the next 40 days?

 3. Is there anyone in my life from whom I need to ask forgiveness or pursue reconciliation? 

4. From Osheta Moore: I read somewhere to begin my Lenten fast with asking God what He wants me to "pick up" from Him, and that will help me discern what I should "put down" for Him. 

5. From Lynne Sykora Stadler: Our family has tried to approach the Lenten season with "What will I add?” not "What will I give up?” Things such as adding stillness in our lives (love that idea, Natalie!). Adding more giving to those in need, what ever that might be-time tutoring a child who needs help in school, giving food to a shelter or food pantry, etc. Adding more prayer, more intentional time with God. The hope is that prayerfully practicing something God leads us to add to our lives will benefit others and keep our focus on Christ, not on ourselves.

[For more questions, check out last year’s list.]

10 Book Recommendations:

1. Wondrous Encounters: Scriptures for Lent by Richard Rohr (submitted by Bet)

2. Lent for Everyone (Year C) by N.T. Wright (submitted by Sue) 

3. Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter  - Orbis Books

4. The Lenten Spring: Readings for Great Lent by Thomas Hopko (for Orthodox Lent, submitted by Molly Dodd)

5. The Road to Emmaus: Companions for the Journey Through Lent by Helen Julian CSF (submitted by Megan Clark Gil

6. Fasting: Spiritual Freedom Beyond Our Appetite by Lynne Baab (submitted by Lamati)

7. Seven Sacred Pauses: Living Mindfully Through the Hours of the Day by Macrina Wiederkehr (submitted by Dana Holz Pavuk)

8. Show Me The Way: Daily Lenten Readings by Henri Nouwen

9. The Little Way of Lent: Meditations in the Spirit of Therese de Lisieux (submitted by Sandy) 

10. Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard Foster 

20 Fasts/ Disciplines/ Rituals:

1.  Participate in an Ash Wednesday service.

2. Pray the offices for 40 days. The Daily Office, (or the Divine Hours), consists of four times of prayer each day: morning prayers (Matins/Laudes), midday prayers (Sext), evening prayers (Vespers), nighttime prayers (Compline). I love praying the hours, and for Lent this year, I’d like to try to get into a more consistent schedule, at least sticking to morning and evening prayers, no matter what. If it’s your first time praying the hours, I recommend using Phyllis Tickle’s The Divine Hours. If you’re looking to add something new to your prayer schedule, I recommend A Book of Hours by Thomas Merton or Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and Enuma Okoro. 

3. From MamaNym: This year I'm writing 40 Lenten Love Letters to people who have had a big impact on my life, both in the present, and in the past, including some people who don't like me and some who have passed away...and especially to God, and even one to myself (which seems to be the most difficult for me to begin). 

4. Take the 40 Days of Water challenge from Blood: Water Mission to help bring clean water to Uganda. Give up all beverages except for water for the 40 days of Lent 2012 and donate the money you save to Blood: Water Mission. They have a great Web site through which you can track your progress and learn more. 

5. For families with children: Make a thorn wreath with your family. (submitted by Julie Ball). Or Institute a Way of Light wreath or an Easter Tree (via Ann Voskamp) You may also want to check out this fantastic list of Lent ideas for families, which includes eating fish sticks on Fridays, making paper chains, donating, and keeping a gratitude jar. 

6. From Natalie Trust: This year I plan to practice intentional silence and stillness every evening. I wrote more about it on my blog and will reflect over the whole experience weekly. Two years ago I wore black for the entire Lenten season as a symbol of my grief over the death of our Lord, and I also wore black in solidarity for the suffering that is experienced in this world by so many people.

7. From Bethany: A few years ago, I gave up NPR for Lent. It was a huge challenge--NPR is almost always on at my house, and especially in the car. Because suddenly I had silence in my day, I had to face myself and my anxieties, and I found myself praying more. I'm not sure it's a fast I'll repeat, but it definitely taught me a great deal about making space in my life.

8. From Marla Abe: Practice “The Wilderness Way”: Every day for 40 days, spend 10-20 minutes OUTSIDE in prayer/meditation/just being (rain or shine)! 

9. Participate in a Carbon Fast (submitted by (Shems)

10. From Aric Clark: Last year I tried to give away 40 things I don't need for Lent. Each day I went through my closet, through my book & DVD collections etc and picked something I don't need and found someone to give it to. I found it meaningful. 

11. From leeaprice: Idea for a discipline - Fully observe the Sabbath for Lent, from sundown on Friday through Saturday.

12. From Eric Fry: A daily Lectio Divina and meditiation on the Imago Deiwill be my Lenten practice this year.

13. From Ariel Price: This year I'm giving up reading books, except the Bible. Since one of the goals of Lent is to prepare ourselves for the Kingdom of God, I can think of no better way to do that than to immerse myself in Scripture.

14. From Beth: I fasted from using my debit card last year. It allowed me to become painfully aware of how easily I swipe & waste; and, allowed me to meditate on & act with better stewardship.

15. From Aubrey: I'm going to be eating like my Compassion child eats every night at dinner and reading "One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp. I will donate the money I save on groceries. Trying to get in the spirit of "true" fasting from Isaiah.

16. From Carter McNeese: A couple of years ago I stumbled onto something that I have really liked that I am extending this year. There is a tradition in Irish Christianity of taking pilgrimage to Crough Patrick in County Mayo and hiking to the top barefoot. The last few years I have taken my own "pilgrimage" during Holy Week by going shoeless as a reminder of not only all of those that are denied shoes, but just how hard it is to "walk the walk." It has been a practice that has been very rewarding to me (and a great conversation starter!). It is also always funny to see people's reaction when you are dressed in suit and tie and barefoot. You can watch their minds melt! This year I think that I am expanding it to the rest of Lent. Twice a week I will both go shoeless as well as fast from sunrise to sunset. I am going to have to be flexible about the days of the week that I do this as I have a job where shoes are, well, required and I can't afford to loose my job! When Holy Week rolls around, the practice will be expanded to everyday, with exceptions that I will wear shoes while I am "on the clock" at work. If you have any interest in doing this might I recommend carrying a pair of flip-flops with you when you go places. While I have been able to talk a fair number of Grocery store managers over the years into letting me be (they have a tendency on letting me alone when I say "pilgrimage") some have been insistent.

17. From Megan: My all-time favorite Lenten discipline that I've done is read the Chronicles of Narnia during the course of the season I think it's important to do something that is both challenging and enjoyable so you do not resent the season.

18. Traditionally, Christians abstained from eating meat during Lent, so consider joining millions of Christians around the world in this fast. It’s a great way to feel connected to the historical, worldwide church. 

19.  Commit to memorizing a significant portion of Scripture, like the Sermon on the Mount, or Isaiah 58, or (one of my favorites) 1 John 4. One reader also suggested The Magnificat.

20.  Commit to 40 days of praying for your enemies. And I don’t mean ruminating over all they have done wrong and praying that they will change, but praying that they will be blessed, that they will find health and peace and grace, that they will come to know Jesus or experience the love of Christ more fully.

5 Prayers/ Meditations

1. Psalm 51

2. Litany of Penitence 

3. "O Lord and Master of my life, grant not unto me a spirit of idleness, of discouragement, of lust for power, and of vain speaking. But bestow upon me, Thy servant, the spirit of chastity, of meekness, of patience, and of love. Yea, O Lord and King, grant that I may perceive my own transgressions, and judge not my brother, for blessed art Thou unto ages of ages. Amen." (prayer used during Great Lent in the Eastern Orthodox Church, submitted by Bryan Michael Maes)

4. "Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your loves sake. Amen." (Book of Common Prayer, submitted by Jacqui Buschor)

5. It is my Lent to break my Lent,
To eat when I would fast,
To know when slender strength is spent,
Take shelter from the blast
When I would run with wind and rain,
To sleep when I would watch.
It is my Lent to smile at pain
But not ignore its touch.
It is my Lent to listen well
When I would be alone,
To talk when I would rather dwell
In silence, turn from none
Who call on me, to try to see
That what is truly meant
Is not my choice. If Christ’s I’d be
It’s thus I’ll keep my Lent.
-Madeleine L’Engle (submitted by Tara M. Owens)

[Find more prayers/mediations in last year’s list]

Wishing you all a meaningful Lenten journey!. 


See also: 
40 Ideas for Lent 2012
40 Ideas for Lent 2011
40 Ideas for Lent 2010

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