Ash Wednesday is upon us, which means we are entering the season of Lent. Lent is a time of penitence, a time of fasting, a time to realign ourselves with God.
Over the centuries, as a spiritual practice, people have given up things they love during Lent – usually sweets or snack items. Last year I gave up something and was quite successful. This year I was considering what to give up, and thought hard about my diet.
Normally I eat pretty healthy, but lately I’ve been under a lot of stress. And my self-medication is potato chips. Because everyone knows the best way to reduce stress is to increase our consumption of sodium and saturated fats, right? Can I get an Amen?
So, I was convinced that I would restart my healthy eating on Ash Wednesday. Then came Tuesday; 4:20 AM Tuesday to be precise. I slept decently Monday night, but woke up at 4:20. That is nothing unusual, as I often wake up in the night. And I decided to pray a bit. That is something I do when I wake up, and usually fall back asleep. But not Tuesday morning. I was praying and soon it was 5:00 AM and I was wide awake. So I decided to get up, go downstairs and open up my devotional. I read the daily scriptures and prayed some more. Then it hit me. Hard.
I was doing a lot of talking to God. But I was not really listening. And I began to reflect on that.
In worship, after taking the prayer requests and before leading the congregation in the “Prayers of the People”, we sing a short verse. Sometimes it is “Lord, listen to your children praying” other times “Hear our prayers O Lord.” And as I thought about both of those songs, I noticed the similarities. We keep telling God to listen to us. But do we either ask God to speak to us, or do we bother giving God time to speak? Do we listen for God’s voice?
I pray a lot. I pray with others, I pray on my own. And my prayer life can always get better – I can always pray more (in fact, I need to). But, beginning Ash Wednesday as my Lenten spiritual practice, I am going to strive to listen more for God’s voice. I’m going to sit in the stillness and silence and “allow” God to speak to me.
Oh yeah, and I’m going to try and reduce the number of potato chips I eat as well.
May God bless you on your Lenten journey,