What do we do when facing an upcoming big event or celebration in our lives? We prepare for it. Holy Week and Easter are the “biggest events and celebrations” in the liturgical year of the church. So, let’s use the 40 days of Lent to re-dedicate ourselves spiritually through a celebration of prayer.
The following prayer methods are just a few suggestions that may help us prepare our minds, hearts, bodies and spirits for the celebration of Easter.
Personal Prayer: Reflective Self-renewal
Lent is a time of spiritual renewal. One easy step is to use the many free online resources to jumpstart or reinvigorate our prayer life. A few resources are Loyola Press’ popular “3-Minute Retreats” and “Seven Last Words of Christ” guided meditation, or try the prayer reflections offered by the Irish Jesuit website Sacred Space. If seeking more traditional support for personal reflective prayer, consider a book specially designed to nourish during Lent, such as “Praying Lent” by Andy Alexander, SJ, and Maureen McCann Waldron.
Prayer as Giving: Focus on Christ
As Catholics we are normally called to give up something for Lent: chocolate, coffee, that extra helping of dinner, one less hour of video games or watching DVDs. How about starting a new tradition? “What will we add?” not “What will we give up?” Consider adding stillness or silence in our lives, or more giving to those in need such as tutoring a child who needs help in school, giving food to a shelter or food pantry or adding more prayer, more intentional time with God. The hope is that, if we prayerfully practice giving to others, it will lead God to add even more to our lives which will benefit others and keep our focus on Christ, not on ourselves.
Lectio Divina: Holy Scripture Meditation
Perhaps the oldest method of scriptural prayer known to Christians is lectio divina or “holy reading.” This method of prayer is characterized by the slow reading and consideration of a text from Scripture, with repetition and meditation on key words or phrases. Lectio divina is rooted in the belief that the scriptural word speaks in the human heart as the word of God and can reveal the thoughts of our hearts in response to God. In this way, lectio divina leads to a deeper communion with the divine.
Stations of the Cross: Redemptive Prayer
One of the most common traditions of Lent is to pray the Stations of the Cross. This prayer helps us reflect on the Passion and death of Christ in preparation for Good Friday observance and the Easter celebration. Our local parish websites or bulletins should list when a Stations of the Cross prayer service is being offered, or try one of the many online resources available.
Small Prayer Group: A Circle of Support
There are many benefits to group prayer. We’re able to offer and experience a positive example, needed support and encouragement, different perspectives, and the inspiration to grow in our spiritual life. A simple way to start is to invite our spouse, a family member, or close friend to pray with us regularly throughout Lent. We can contact our local parish and inquire about prayer groups being sponsored or we can start our own group. Usually, parish-sponsored groups will offer a prayer kit with step-by-step instructions, guides and all the necessary resources so even a beginner will feel comfortable.
Liturgical prayer: the Mass
When we attend Mass during Lent, let’s be conscious of and meditate on the words we pray with our priest in all parts of the liturgy. For example, the eucharistic prayer is the center of each Mass and it has special significance during Lent. After receiving Communion, you may want to sit and reflect more deeply on this great prayer of the church.
Pray always and incessantly
Finally, perhaps the best prayer advice is to use Lent as a time to implant and nurture the habit of daily prayer which will last a lifetime and bring us ever-closer to the unconditional love of our creator God.