The ancients have given us a classic triad of Lenten practices—prayer, fasting, almsgiving—and I find them useful guides to my own Lenten observance. What about you?
Prayer: I experiment with forms of prayer that aren’t familiar to me during Lent. This year I’m practicing contemplative prayer. The distractions of home (particularly the four-footed distraction who’s sure that my sitting still indicates a deep need for feline attention) aren’t conducive to that form of prayer, so I’m taking part in the contemplative prayer services offered at my church. How about you? How are you reaching out toward God more intentionally during Lent?
Fasting: The fourth-century pilgrim Egeria noted that in Jerusalem, those who can fast during Lent, do; those who can’t, don’t; all do what they can and no one shames anyone. That refusal to judge—including judging ourselves—is a good example for our own daily lives. Building the habit of loving our neighbors in thought as well as in action is a wonderful Lenten practice. I try (really really hard) to think kind thoughts about the other drivers sharing the road with me on the way to and from work each day. How about you? How do you love your neighbor more consciously this Lent?
Almsgiving: Maybe Lent can be a special time for giving to our women’s organization. When we give to Women of the ELCA, our gifts support our grants and scholarships programs, our many free program resources, BoldCafe.org, Bold Connections, Gather, our website, and so much more. Maybe Lent is the time for each of us to consider renewing our giving, recalling that Jesus’ earthly ministry was supported by the women disciples “who gave out of their resources” (Luke 8:3). I made a decision not long ago to give to Women of the ELCA regularly, and I acted on it. How about you? How are you giving more purposefully during Lent?
One of the things I love most about Lent is that no matter how ragged our attempts at spiritual renewal turn out to be this year, any effort is worth making. And we get to do it again next year!
Audrey Novak Riley serves Women of the ELCA as Director for Stewardship and Development.
Photo: Liturgical dance at the Conference of Presidents, a form of prayer. Photo by Karen E. Retzlaff