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What is the meaning of Lent?

Lent is a 40-day period for believers to re-center their lives on Jesus Christ through fasting and prayer. Lent is traditionally observed by those in the Catholic faith as well as some liturgical churches, but anyone who is convicted to refocus and refine their faith could benefit from Lent. The length of the Lenten fast was established in the 4th century as 46 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday (that's 40 days, not counting Sundays) and is modeled after the period of time Jesus spent in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11).

What happens during Lent?

During Lent, observers may choose to fast as an act of self-discipline, which is one of the Fruits of the Spirit. We find examples of fasting throughout the Bible, from Moses (Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 9:9, 18) to Elijah (1 Kings 19:8) to Jesus Himself (Matthew 4:2). Believers may choose to abstain from certain foods or activities to help return their focus to Christ rather than the pleasures of life. It is not uncommon for observers to give up smoking, eating sugar, watching TV, or participating in social media. Learning to master that which could master us is a wise defense for our faith. Proverbs 25:28 tells us, "A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls."

Fasting

Fasting can be a powerful practice to strengthen a believer's relationship with God and serve as a reminder of Christ's death and resurrection. Be sure to fast safely, avoiding any deprivation that would cause you physical harm. Children and young teens should never fast from food, water, or other basic nutrients. If you wish to fast from food, take into account any medical conditions that may make fasting dangerous for you. Consult your doctor before attempting to fast from food or water for any length of time.

That said, a believer's motivation for fasting should never be to get attention but should be a private affair between them and God. Jesus gave some wonderful advice for those who wish to fast: "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen" (Matthew 6:16-18). Our motivation behind fasting should never be to attain spiritual superiority over others but to strengthen our faith and relationship with God.

Prayer

Prayer is an incredibly important part of observing Lent as well. Without communicating with God, we are trying to achieve holiness and strengthen our faith all alone. God started the work of making us like like His Son (1 Corinthians 1:30), and He will continue to do so (Philippians 1:6) as we daily pursue the things which will strengthen our faith (1 Peter 1:15; Hebrews 12:14).

A Lenten Twist...

God is pleased anytime we repent of sinful activities, but abstaining from sinful or harmful things is something we should strive for on a daily basis anyway—not just during Lent. What if, instead of "giving up" something for Lent, believers chose to observe a positive practice for 40 days?

What would bring you closer to Christ? Making daily prayer a habit? Making Bible study part of your morning or nighttime routine? Serving in a soup kitchen? Being kind to your siblings? Taking 40 days to do a positive action toward Christlikeness is a gain rather than loss. What would happen if you took 40 days to focus on holiness in your life?

Christians are free to observe Lent if they wish to do so (Romans 14:5), but the Bible does not require observance. The key is keeping the focus on God and growing closer to Him in the process. Believers should never use a time of personal sacrifice as a way brag about their piousness to others; this is spiritual pride. Nor will observance of Lent "earn" God's favor or our salvation. We can never do anything to make God love us more, because He loves us more than we can imagine already (Romans 5:8).

TL;DR

Lent is a 40-day period for believers to re-center their lives on Jesus Christ through fasting and prayer. Fasting can be a powerful practice to strengthen a believer's relationship with God and serve as a reminder of Christ's death and resurrection. Fast safely, avoiding any deprivation that would cause you physical harm. Christians are free to observe Lent if they wish (Romans 14:5), but the Bible does not require it. The key is keeping the focus on God and growing closer to Him in the process. Believers should never use a time of personal sacrifice as a way brag about their piousness to others; this is spiritual pride. We can never do anything to make God love us more, because He loves us more than we can imagine already (Romans 5:8).

By: Catiana Nak Kheiyn

Cat is the web producer and editor of 412teens.org. She loves audiobooks, feeding the people she cares about, and using Christmas lights to illuminate a room. When Catiana is not writing, cooking, or drawing, she enjoys spending time with her two kids, five socially-awkward cats, and her amazing friend-amily.

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