The Christian year centers on the major events of salvation history, celebrating Jesus’ birth, death, resurrection, and the sending of the Holy Spirit.
Lent refers to the forty days leading up to Easter. The Lenten season is set aside for self-examination, spiritual renewal, and growth. In many churches, it is seen as a time for fasting and abstinence, for alms-giving and acts of mercy, for repentance and prayer.
Augustine describes the season of Lent this way, “In what part of the year could the observance of the forty-day fast be more appropriately instituted than that adjoining, so to speak, and touching on, the Lord’s Passion?”
People may choose a variety of ways to observe Lent in their personal lives. Some choose to “give up” something for Lent; this may free them from a bad habit or a distraction or may simplify their lives, and it allows for more time to spend in studying God’s Word or in prayer. Others fast, to cleanse their bodies and to identify with the poor. Some choose to commit themselves to acts of mercy, to giving of their money and their time to service in the Kingdom. Some use these 40 days to focus on a particular portion of scripture or daily prayer or a devotional book that helps them to journey with Christ to the cross. In all of these ways, people use this season for deeper reflection and preparation for the celebration of Christ’s victory over sin and death on Easter.
Psalm 51 (NRSV)
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. … Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit. …
Excerpt from "A Prayer for Lent" by Henri Nouwen
How often have I lived through these weeks without paying much attention to penance, fasting, and prayer? How often have I missed the spiritual fruits of the season without even being aware of it? But how can I ever really celebrate Easter without observing Lent...
(A Cry for Mercy: Prayers from the Genesee; Image Books, 2002)
Check out more prayers for Lent
The Worship Sourcebook is usually the first book we turn to for planning worship. Parts J through N, pp. 552-654, offer sample prayers and other worship resources for each act of worship during Lent, Passion Week, and Easter.
Seeking God's Face is a new resource that provides an entire year of daily prayers and readings from Psalms and other scriptures.
Check out more books for Lent
Also, check out songs for Lent