40 Days of Prayer
Lent is the period of 40 days that leads up to Holy Week. Admittedly, we Baptists have tended to not pay much attention to the liturgical calendar, but there is some wisdom to be gained in listening to what the broader Christian family has to tell us during this season. Modeled after the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness being tempted, Lent is intended to be a time of focused preparation for the events of Holy Week, which culminates in the crucifixion and resurrection. Not surprisingly, themes of repentance and renewal are common during this season.
One of the ways that many Christians observe Lent is by giving up something that they otherwise might consume or make use of, such as chocolate or coffee or TV. The idea behind such a practice is that every time you have the impulse to reach for that thing, you can use it as a moment for prayer or repentance. Temporarily going without such a simple thing is one small way of honoring the sacrifice Christ made for us. Of course, it is easy to become legalistic about such a practice, which means that you start looking for loopholes around the voluntary promise you made to yourself. If I vowed to give up coffee, can I drink hot tea in its place? Fortunately, our salvation does not depend on getting the right answer to that question!
This year, I want to invite you to join together as a church family to observe Lent, but I want to do it in a different way. Instead of giving up something, I want us to add something to our daily lives for 40 days. Specifically, I want us to add a time of focused prayer for our church. Beginning on Ash Wednesday, which falls this year on March 6, I want us all to take a few moments out of each day to pray for a specific need in our church. To facilitate this, we are providing a 40-day calendar with a prayer focus for each day: bonsackbaptist.org/pray40 . Imagine the renewal we could experience if everyone in our church family was united in prayer for that one day around that one need. Then imagine what could happen if we do this for 40 days in a row!
There are no rules about when or how you should do this. I once heard it said that genuine prayer is simply an honest conversation with God about important matters. Like any conversation, this one can happen anywhere and anytime. That said, you might find it helpful to set aside a particular time and place each day so that it doesn’t get crowded out by other things. If you find that you need to give up something in order to make space and time for this daily practice, then do so. That will have the added bonus of getting rid of something unimportant while also adding in something far more useful to the kingdom. At the end of the day, however, we shouldn’t be overly concerned about the form. What matters is the genuineness with which we seek God.
I believe God has big plans for our church. He didn’t go to the trouble of raising Jesus back from the dead just so we can carry on with business as usual. But God invites us to be his co-laborers in fulfilling those plans, and that can’t happen unless we are renewed and transformed. We pray together, then, not so that God can know what we need. We pray that we might become more open to the ways he wants to work through us to meet those needs. To that end, let’s join together on this Lenten journey!