In this talk, Karen shares the different ways we can make our Lenten sacrifices more meaningful and will bring us closer to Jesus. She also shares a beautiful prayer that you can reflect on as we go through the Lenten season.
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Printable Study Guide PDF
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Reflective Study Guide Questions
“So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”Matthew 24:44
- Are the things you’re doing for Lent mere practices, or are they preparation? As Karen said, the actions we take and the lessons we learn should prepare us for eternal life and should help us grow closer to God. What kinds of things can you do this Lenten season to prepare you for an eternity with God?
- How is your prayer different during Lent? Have you ever asked God: What do You want me to do? And do you listen for a response from Him? How can the actions you take express your love for God?
- Are you fasting this Lent? As Karen said, when she fasted, she prayed for those who had little or no food. Fasting also reminded her to increase her generosity toward others who are in need. What can you do for others this Lent? How can fasting help you see and fulfill a need that someone else may have?
- What are some things that get in the way of your relationship with God? How can you spend time during Lent (and then after) in an attempt to decrease or eliminate these distractions? Choose two or three things that you would like to change about yourself or your behaviors. Pray that God will guide you as you work toward building a stronger relationship with Him.
- What does it mean to sacrifice? Why is sacrificing important, and how can it help us grow spiritually and get closer to God? What are some things you can sacrifice so that you can grow closer to God?
Text: Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving
Hello everyone, I’m Karen May. And today we are going to talk about our Lenten practices and how they can prepare us for a new life in Christ. And let us take one of those Lenten practices, prayer, and begin.
In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Heavenly Father I thank you for this time, this time that we are to spend together, hearing of your call to our hearts, hearing of the ways that you call us to a preparation to receive your son in a new way during this Lenten season, help us Lord to look at our practices and to fill them with meaning, to fill them with hope, and preparation and help us Lord to walk ever closer to you through them. We ask all this in Jesus’ name, Amen. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
What are you Giving Up for Lent?
So, the beginning of Lent the big question is, what are giving up? What are you got to do? And so often that’s sweets I’m got to give up sugar and sweets. And so, any dessert that you bring to a party during lent is not got to have a lot of takers. And you’ve probably tempted a lot of people, and maybe even had them break their Lenten promises occasionally. So, it’s a little risky to bring desserts during lent. It’s also giving up coffee. That’s a very common one. And I have a friend who gave up coffee one lent, and her family asked her to never do that again. And we give up so many things. And I think that a lot of times we just kind of have these practices and we forget what they’re for and are they for us to give up to sacrifice, which is noble and good, and then just receive them all back at Easter. We just put them down for a little bit, and then we just take them back and move on our way. Or is there something different? Is it a practice or is it a preparation?
Will it Bring You Closer to Jesus?
And one year my spiritual director helped me to see that he challenged me. And just a simple question. He said, “What are you doing for Lent? And then how is that bringing you closer to Jesus?” And I thought, hmm, my friend who gave up coffee it didn’t bring anybody and her family closer to Jesus. And some of my practices, really maybe they brought me closer to Jesus, but I wasn’t being as intentional about them as I could. And I had to look at all of that in such a different way. Now, there had been a time that I had fasted that I fasted on bread and water on Wednesdays during Lent. And I was very prayerful about that as I ate some bread and drank some water and waited for that kind of lunchtime to come around to have some more bread more water, I realized in a deep, deep way, that everything that I received was a gift that prayer bless us oh Lord, and these thy gifts, which we receive from your bounty, your bounty, Jesus’s bounty is huge. He has everything and He gives us everything. And so, any little thing that we receive is from Him even this little piece of bread. And so, I knew on some level that these practices really were designed to bring me closer to Jesus but that question for some reason at that time that he posed it really struck me. Because I’m pretty sure that Lent, my practices were not bringing me closer to Jesus. I was just adding a prayer practice or maybe I was giving up sugar, or I don’t think I gave up coffee or tea, tea is my thing. And I will give that up on occasion, but I don’t think I was even doing that, but it changed.
Prayer as a Lenten Practice
And then I could see the techniques that were called to practice. The things that were called to practice during lent can be very different if we approach it that way. The first thing is prayer. We were told to pray to fast, and give alms during Lent. So, when we pray, as a Lenten practice, how is that different? How are we looking at that prayer and approaching that? And have we gone at the beginning of lent and asked God to tell us, to show us how to pray? What do you want me to do Lord, is the question we should be asking? And we can see that there are things in our prayer lives that maybe are getting in the way and we need to put them to the side because they’re not helping us to grow in relationship with Jesus. We’re doing them but maybe they’re not meaning very much to us anymore. And we need something a little different to give us fresh eyes, even in our relationships with our family members and our loved ones we don’t do the same thing every day. That gets a bit old, but it’s all based in the same thing. It’s all based in love. And so how are we called to express that in our time in our lives right now?
And it’s not always adding something, sometimes it’s slowing down. Sometimes it’s maybe adding a little time, maybe adding a practice, I’m got to go to daily mass every day, or maybe just once a week, because I don’t go at all, or I’m got to add a prayer in the morning. But sometimes it’s, I’m just going to look several times during the day and see where Jesus is, see where Jesus is calling me to bring Him to the place where I am. Maybe it’s something as simple as that.
So, when we look at our prayers, and we look at what we’re going to do for this Lenten season it’s to develop a practice, it’s to develop and prepare ourselves for how that practice is going to be transformed after Easter. When we receive new life, that makes it so different.
Fasting during Lent
And the same is with fasting. Like I said, with my fasting, I was fasting from food, but I was doing it prayerfully. I was hungry, but every time I was hungry, I turned that into a prayer for those who don’t have as much food, who don’t have food readily available to them. And it reminded me to have some food available in my car for the homeless people that I see as I drive around the town. And it helped to me to see again, that abundance, that gift that God gives me the gifts from Jesus that everything I have in my life is gift. Whether it is food, whether it is clothing, whether it is a relationship, or just even my health, everything I have is gift. And the gratitude that grew from that was immense.
And when we look at the things we’re going to fast from for this Lent, we look at the things that are getting in our way, the things that are blocking us from finding Jesus in our lives, the things that we are turning away from God to go and pay attention to. So, maybe it’s social media, a lot of people will delete social media, because hopefully if you are considering this as a preparation it’s because that’s getting in your way and you want something more, you want something different than that focus on social media that’s taking your focus away from Jesus and from the way that Jesus is calling you to live.
So, what are those things? Bring that to prayer again, Jesus, what is getting in my way so that I can practice putting that down for these 40 days. And then after Easter, that habit has been developed in a way that I can then walk with confidence closer to you. And the other thing that we can do in our fasting is giving something of ourselves for others benefit. We can sacrifice our time, our talent, and our treasure. So, we can give money, that we can give money to people who are in need or to charities. We can work extra things or extra things to earn money, to give to people. We can give our time in volunteering. But that time, if it is just limited to Lent, is really falling short and not in a way of failure but in a way of there’s so much more that we’re just leaving on the table. So maybe this time of service is an intense time but what is it prepare you for? What kind of service will happen after Easter? Will you continue with that service? Will that transform into the way that you live your life day to day in the people that you interact with? How will that service transform at Easter and move forward instead of just be put down because now that time is over?
Giving Alms in Lent
And then in our alms, that leads straight into that. We are giving of ourselves. We are giving things that we are holding onto. So, if we are holding onto something so tightly, whether it’s our money, our time, our talent, our love, our gratitude, whatever it is what are we holding onto tightly? And we’re afraid to let go even, or unsure if we can let go, can we practice that during Lent? Can we look and see I’m holding onto this resentment and to this anger against this person who maybe has hurt me and I’m holding onto it, and I don’t want to let it go right now. But in that time of Lent, can we take that, and offer that to Jesus, offer that sacrifice and say this is hard I need to forgive, or I need to be joyful, or I need to be different than I am right now. And I am going to offer that as an alms. I’m got to offer that to you and then Jesus can take and transform that. And again, that little step by little step, by little step, can be transformed. We are preparing for this life in Christ after.
A Focused Easter
And so, this time of Lent can be very intense and very focused. And it’s kind of like that spring training or that time that you’re preparing for a marathon, or a competition, it’s a lot of hard work, but then it starts to become easier. It becomes a part of who you are in studying for a math test after a math test, after a math test all of the things that you learn in that time then you can apply to the next things that you do. And so, all of these things that we’re doing during lent we can apply after Easter and that’s the gift is that at Easter, we receive something very different than we have before. We don’t just receive cake and sweets and coffee again, although that’s really nice and our family has a debate on whether or not we get to receive it on Holy Thursday because that’s officially when lent is over. And I say officially because some people in our camp say, well but it’s not really over until Easter Sunday. So, no chocolate for you. That’s a big debate. And that no priest I’ve ever talked to yet is willing to get into with our family.
But at Easter, when we have gone through our Lenten practices and helped to approach those, and we’ve a approach those in a way that we know that they are preparing us for this new life then when we get to Easter and we receive those things back in a different way, we start to see differently that we are called to walk forward in them. Maybe we receive those sweets back. Maybe we receive those coffee drinks back every day or twice a day, but now we know what it means to sacrifice. Now we know what it means to hold back and to let go of something, not really for ourselves, but for Jesus. And so, then we can see what He’s calling us to let go of as we head forward into that Easter season and get out of the way so that Jesus can shine through us so that we can receive this new life in Him.
We have so many gifts waiting for us this Lenten season. And I ask God just shower you with His graces, to bless you with all of these gifts in the practices that you have chosen. I hope that you are preparing for this amazing and beautiful new life in Christ. And as we close, I have a prayer, a beautiful Lenten prayer that I discovered a couple years ago. And I want to read this to you, and I hope that it helps you to frame your own Lenten practices in a way that helps you to prepare for a new life in Christ.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. God, once again, for it is certainly not the first time you call me to return to the center and that is you, to your place, to your way of doing things. You have asked me many times to come back to the place where you dwell, to listen only to you, to focus on you, to live intimately with you. So here I am again, hoping that this time your word will take root and find a home within me.
Here and now God, I recommit myself to you, to find space and time to pray, and to not conveniently forget in my busy days. I reverence again your call to fast, and not just give up things, I want to fast from all that is negative, all that does me and to others harm, greed, whining, selfishness, self-indulgence, destructive behavior. I want to be centered in you father, and all that you are, peace, joy, compassion, and mercy.
Instead of giving up, I want to take on, to choose not to live in guilt and shame for that is not of you. I want to celebrate and take on a new way to begin a renewal within myself. I want to make a difference Lord, not just during this time of lent, but beyond lent. I want to begin a new way of living that echoes your call to me, to serve everyone everywhere.
Father, I promise to go outside myself to be with someone who is lonely, who is dying, who is hurting. I will visit those whose hearts are imprisoned, feed those who are hungry, fight for those who are oppressed and who suffer, in their eyes and in their stories I see myself, may I experience healing, not necessarily a cure, but bomb that will anoint me with the hope that your rising is not something to remember nostalgically as a wonderful historical story, but as your promise to me. Help me Lord to return to you for the time is now. Now, in Jesus name I pray, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. God bless you.
About Karen May
Karen May is a dynamic and inspirational author and speaker who believes that powerful, transformational faith doesn’t have to be complicated. Helping people to discover the profound truths of God in a way that is simple, inviting, and filled with joy is a gift that she shares in her writing and speaking. She is the author of Be Not Afraid: Living with Faith in the Midst of a Fearful World, and Walking Through Holy Week. You can find her at www.amayzinggraces.com.