Lent is the 40 day season of the church year preceding Easter where we focus on repentance and penitence and acts of spiritual discipline…..basically, a time to reflect where we are on our faith journeys and make a conscious effort to return to God. The church often talks about three practices that we can engage in that will help us to accomplish this goal…..prayer, fasting and almsgiving. All three of these things are scriptural and have been practiced by Christians for centuries.
Prayer – I hope that this item is already a part of your everyday lives, but during Lent, many people pray that God would help them to re-focus themselves on God’s ways rather than the ways of the world.
Fasting – Not only did Jesus talk about fasting, he also gave instructions on how to do so. (see Matt. 6: 16-18) Fasting isn’t only about refraining from food, it also can include refraining from items such as Television, computers, alcohol, etc. In fasting, earthly comforts are put aside so that the person can re-focus on walking with God.
Almsgiving – This is the Lenten practice that is least well-known among Christians today. Because many people don’t even know for sure what it is, it happens to be the most neglected of the Lenten disciplines. Most people who are brave enough to venture a guess as to what almsgiving is tend to say that it is the practice of giving money to the church. While this is true to a certain degree, almsgiving is also much more.
Basically, Almsgiving is “giving to God.” Almsgiving includes both prayer and fasting. Almsgiving is prayer because it is a form of giving to God. Almsgiving is fasting because it demands sacrificial giving.
Almsgiving can take many forms. Yes, it can be a straightforward monetary donation, but it could also be a work of mercy: visiting a shut-in, knitting a prayer shawl for a person who is ill, tutoring a child, mentoring a young mother, treating someone with kindness, etc. And if we cannot do something extra, we can cut back or make do with less in our own lives to benefit others and our world.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, if you have never tried any of these three Lenten disciplines, I hope that you will consider doing so. I pray that you will be successful in your attempts to re-focus yourself on God and his ways. I also pray that you will fully immerse yourselves in the season of Lent so that you will be better able to rejoice on Easter Sunday!

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