Lent: empty to full, fasting


Fasting is temporarily abstaining from food (electronic media, television, etc.) for a period of time with the purpose of focusing on prayer and spiritual guidance.

Welcome to week 4 of our Lent guide! After spending last week studying prayer, this week’s topic of fasting is a natural follow-up.

As we persevere through the discomfort of fasting, we often experience a time of laser focus and closeness with God that is at a deeper level than what we usually attain. It is interesting how a physical discipline such as fasting complements our spiritual development. But God has created us in a way that our bodies, souls, and spirits are intricately connected. Disciplining our bodies by way of fasting often brings about spiritual breakthroughs as we cooperate with God in our goal for the fast.

New to Fasting?

If you’ve never tried fasting before, please don’t be intimidated. A fast does not have to be weeks long to be beneficial. In fact, if you are new, start slow. Try fasting for one meal. You’ll find several suggestions in the Sway that should help you choose a method to practice during the upcoming week.

Please scroll through the Sway and explore the different resources we have for you this week.

Share your insights, questions, and prayer requests on our Lent Facebook page. We love hearing from you!

Have a blessed week!

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Lent Day 37, Examen

Welcome to Day 37 of our Lenten Devotional! We continue our study on spiritual housecleaning with today’s post on the Prayer of Examen. This is a perfect time to explore this discipline developed by St. Ignatius. Juct click below for today’s post.

*When you click on the Lent Day 37 , Examen link below, you will taken to a pdf with more information on it. The Examen exercise link on the pdf page no longer works. Please use this link (Examen Exercise) instead after you read the pdf. Thank you!


Lent Day 37, Examen

The Jesus Prayer

The summertime is one of my favorite times of the year, especially fresh, sunny mornings on the deck with my Bible. For me, prayer seems easier when I’m surrounded by flowers, singing birds and a warm breeze. I love to start the day this way–before I’m consumed by the distractions of my to-do list and job.

My morning time gets me grounded and ready for whatever the day may bring. However, I’ve noticed how easy it is to “lose” God in the busyness of the day. It’s not that He goes anywhere–He’s still there; it’s just me who has moved away. Lately, I’ve decided to be more purposeful about bringing God into all of my day–not just the mornings. As I was thinking about how to do this, I came across the Jesus Prayer in a book I was reading on spiritual disciplines. The Jesus Prayer is not a new idea; rather, it’s been around as a practice since the 5th century and has its origins in the Bible.

The Jesus Prayer is a simple, short prayer that says, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me,” or “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” It probably sounds familiar to you if you’re read the gospel of Luke lately where the tax collector is praying in chapter 18, verse 13 “God be merciful to me a sinner!” Or perhaps you’ve read the story of Bartimaeus, the blind beggar who called out to Jesus in Mark 10, “ Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” The crowd tried to shush Bartimaeus (I wonder; have I ever discouraged anyone from following Jesus? I hope not!), but he just yelled all the louder. Jesus blessed his faith by healing him and giving him his sight!

The Jesus Prayer is explained in an ancient book called the Philokalia, which had hundreds of pages of ideas on how to practice this prayer–rather surprising when you consider the brevity of the prayer! An anonymous Russian pilgrim in the middle 1800s also wrote a book about his experiences with the prayer and how it changed his life. This book is called The Way of a Pilgrim. Both books are still on the market, so if you want to read more about the Jesus Prayer, these would be some in-depth reading for you.

But, if you’re ready to jump in and start practicing this discipline, it’s very simple. To help you focus, start practicing this prayer in a quiet place. Breathe in and pray, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,” and then breathe out and pray “have mercy on me, a sinner.” Try to tune out any distractions, thinking about the words and praying them from your heart. The whole idea is to reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice for us. Reminding ourselves that we are sinners is not meant to put ourselves down, but rather to help us not take for granted what Jesus has done for us and continues to do for us. Some people like to use prayer ropes to keep track of how many times they pray the prayer each day. To me that seems to become almost legalistic, but do what feels comfortable to you. As you become accustomed to praying the prayer, you can pray it wherever you are throughout your day to ground you and draw you closer to God.

That’s what I like about this short prayer. I think that praying the Jesus Prayer will help me not “lose” God as I go about my day, but rather help me to focus on Him–wherever I am.

What do you think? Do you think the Jesus Prayer is a practice you’ll try? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Pray on!



Silence and Solitude

Be still and know that I am God ….” Psalm 46:10

It’s been said that the spiritual discipline of silence and solitude is the most important because all the others hinge on our communion with God. If we have this time with Him, then we are grounded and ready to move into and learn about the other disciplines. That’s why I’ve chosen to start with this discipline.

That being said, the spiritual discipline of silence and solitude is also one of the most intimidating for many of us. We can be … afraid of the silence, afraid of being by ourselves. Or, maybe, if you live in the midst of a crowded, busy household, silence and solitude may seem like the impossible dream.

Think about what a premium our culture places on instant access and communication. Cell phones allow us to be reached at times when just a few years ago, we would have be inaccessible, like on a walk or driving in our cars. They intrude in conversations with friends, at luncheons, even in church!

While on vacation this week. I’ve had a good chance to observe our obsession with cell phones–and realized my own obsession. On a number of occasions, I’ve observed teens who were hanging out with their friends on the beach, and the whole time they were with their friends they were ignoring them, texting other people. One girl even had her phone in the pool. She texted while she was in the pool by standing in the shallow end and texting instead of swimming or talking to her friends. I have been guilty of frequently checking my e-mail on my phone and dashing to answer every ring.

The discipline of silence and solitude helps us to disconnect from distractions and connect with the true lover of our souls, God. If Jesus needed times of silence and solitude with God–and He did regularly–then how much more do we? When we don’t have those times, our souls can become sick. We become discouraged, depressed, hopeless, without realizing why we feel that way.

You’ll need to plan to add times of silence and solitude into your life. Rarely will these times just open themselves up for you. Perhaps you can work in a few minutes each day, a longer time on the weekend, schedule a monthly few-hours-long time to get away, or maybe even go on a longer retreat.

Over the next few blogs, we’ll look at how to make this work in your life and what silence with God can look like.

Pray on!