The season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday when we traditionally use the ash from last year’s palms to make a cross on our foreheads.

This ancient custom is a humble acceptance of our need to forgiveness, and that in the season of Lent we are willing to refocus our lives.  On the same day we may make a Lenten Promise linked to fasting, prayer or giving to others. Whichever you decide, I urge you to make it a challenge. I’m sure many of us have memories of tough Lenten Promises – chocolate always being a favourite (or not!).

Think hard about what is a distraction in your life?  My personal toughest was coffee a couple of years back.  But praying about the above question of distractions, it dawned on me that each evening I spend far too much time catching up on other people’s lives on social media whilst my own family surround me.  To me that really is a distraction, so I’m tempted to take up the challenge of giving up social media this Lent.

We can learn so much more about ourselves and grow closer to God through truly challenging our way of life and reflecting. As a practice spanning worldwide over 10,000 years, among so many cultures and civilisations, there is undoubtedly a great wisdom in the custom.  Many people now prefer to do something extra rather than give something up. If this helps a person focus during Lent then it’s just as worthy a practice as giving up something.  So this Ash Wednesday, as followers of Christ who gave up so much for us, take a moment to be thankful, to look at how we can benefit others in Lent and how we can deepen our prayer life.

A Lenten Prayer

Lord Jesus,
as we celebrate this season of Lent,
we ask for the power of your Spirit
that we may become more
thoughtful towards others,
more honest with ourselves,
and more faithful to you.
Help us to follow you more closely
and grow to be the people you want
us to be.

Matt Robinson, Lay Chaplain