On the evening of Ash Wednesday, Anglican Christians are given the following exhortation following the evening sermon:
Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord's passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting. This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.
I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word. And, to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer.This is the type of exhortation which sets many off with visions of what they're going to accomplish over the next forty days. Then, dejectedly, they step towards the waning moments of the season realizing how little they were able to mortify their flesh in the season that was ending in growing twilight of Holy Saturday. I make this observation, not looking down my nose, but gazing into mirror far too many times for my liking.
This year for me, Lent was ushered in with some significant obstacles and challenges. Family dynamics were significantly different than the year prior, which brought a slew things. And while I was able to "modestly mortify" the flesh, I was able to experience a profound and seminal change with my personal prayer life. While my public prayer life may have seemed deep and profound to those around me, my private prayer life was anything but. I prayed silently daily, yet , my prayer stream seemed distracted and wandering, never making it past the turf of the infield. For as many times as I'd read that "The effectual, fervent prayers of a righteous man availeth much", according to Saint James. Yet my prayers seemed impotent and tepid, hardly the incense described by Saint John in the Apocalypse. This Lent brought something different.
Where I would have saved my personal petitions for last, I began to lift them first. Praying first for mercy for the rising day, I began to regularly pray for Wisdom, Focus, Stamina, and Perseverance. Wisdom to perceive the inevitable rising challenge, focus to not loose sight of the challenge, stamina not to let that challenge get the best of me, and perseverance to see the challenge through to its end. I also began to pray aloud. This wasn't to make a public show of piety, I was still in my private prayer space where it was only me in the presence of the Almighty.
As this progressed, I began to notice that prayer was becoming less of a wander through a garden, and more of an intentional march forward, keeping my heart on the object of those intercessions, and my heart on the target of those prayers, that being the throne room of God, and his mercy seat.
I won't presume for a moment to think that I've suddenly become a mighty prayer warrior. I will happily say that I believe that I was shone a way towards praying prayers that are far more "fervent and effectual" than what once passed for personal prayer.
So in all of this, I can say that through the Almighty that, even if my flesh was only modestly mortified, my spirit was mightily fortified.
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