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Given up on Lent?

By Pete Hopper

I’ve never fully understood lent. OK, so I get that it’s the six weeks before Easter, but the whole giving up stuff has me stumped. What I’ve actually seen of lent in my generation hasn’t been, well, very Lenty. As I see it, Lent has, in my circles, been more of an excuse to give up chocolate, to lose a bit of timber, or an attempt to resurrect those resolutions that were dead and gone by the 3rd day of January.

Lent has perhaps become a convenient excuse to shed a few pounds, or fast from digital life for a bit. Once all the pancakes are gone, people enter into a test of mental strength – a mastery of will power. And if we do actually make it through Lent, we more often than not absolutely trough ourselves when Easter comes – back to square one, like nothing happened.

Am I being a touch cynical? Perhaps. Not the whole picture? Definitely. What all this does (apart from make everyone a bit grumpier) is put the focus straight on the self. Which is kinda the opposite of Lent’s purpose. Lent is actually about taking the focus from our desires and back onto Jesus and his Kingdom.

Tradition would say that Lent is 40 days of prayer and self-denial. Sounds super scary. But the opportunity we have is not to just make it about the self-denial bit, but also add prayer into the mix too. And as we do, we join millions of Christians around the world who absolutely know the value of fasting and prayer. Especially those who are facing extreme persecution where they live because they have chosen to follow Jesus.

That’s why we’ve cooked up a new, tasty resource, Fast Food, to help you put proper prayer and fasting right back at the heart of your build-up to Easter.

Fast Food is centered around a series of weekly meals, and during each meal you’ll get to focus on a different country where Christians face persecution. You’ll eat food that’s eaten in that country. You’ll hear stories of incredible faith and dedication. You’ll be moved to pray and act for those who share our faith, but not our freedom. And lastly, you’ll be challenged to act out a weekly fast. These secret challenges will give you a taste of what life is like for Christians in the country you’re focusing on. It’s not a gimmick. This is about getting back to the basics of Lent – it’s about seeing how much Jesus gave up for us at Easter, and being inspired by Christians around the world giving their lives back to him as a response.

It’s not about giving up the chocolates to shed a few pounds… Nope. True fasting is about creating space and time for God to work.

You see, the persecuted church gets that fasting isn’t actually about us. It’s not about giving up the chocolates to shed a few pounds. It’s not about a digital detox that helps us feel more grounded in reality (and less addicted to our mates IG profiles). Nope. True fasting is about creating space and time for God to work. It’s about saying, like John the Baptist ‘You must increase, I must decrease’ (John 3:30). It’s about refocusing our priorities and being inspired by Him to love more, to live more and to take more risks. It’s about seeing how much Jesus gave up for us and realising that he asks us to give our whole lives back as a response to him.

So, lent and fasting? It’s not about giving up, but giving back. (Meme!)

Get your free Fast Food resource

Can’t do something every week?

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The Author
Pete is the Youth and Student Manager at Open Doors UK. Before that he was a graphic designer and art director, as well as youth worker and musician. He's got two children (one very new one) and lives in the West Midlands...

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