A Lenten Prayer for Self Denial and Service
This past Wednesday marked the beginning of our Lenten journey toward the great resurrection celebration of Easter. The 40 day season of Lent invites self-reflection and hope. Giving up personal comforts (‘fasting’) may seem like the thing to do. Yet, as we heard in our Ash Wednesday reflection on Isaiah 58, God spoke through the great prophet to condemn Israel’s religious practices that were merely about self-denial, which is really all about selfish pleasures and comfort. The kind of focus God finds acceptable is to deny oneself for the sake of serving others and bringing life from the overflowing resource of Christ’s life at work within us. So when you consider putting off the flesh, remember to put on Christ and share what He gives you with others. Share an encouraging word, or a listening ear. Provide tender counsel to a loved one in turning away from sin and find healing through faith. Serve those with need in the community, your workplace, or your family. Renew a discipline of daily prayer, including intercession for God’s glorious will to be worked out in others’ lives. Make use of the recent “Real Life @ Home” 7-5-2 prayer campaign as a very helpful tool. (You can pick up a brochure in the church narthex.)
Here is my favorite Lenten prayer, traditionally ascribed to St. Ephrem the Syrian and prayed daily in the Eastern Orthodox church. It beautifully captures the “negative” and “positive” elements of putting off and putting on, repentance and righteousness, self-denial and service, freedom from sin, and freedom to love as Christ has loved us. Consider sharing this prayer daily with your family or as part of your Lenten devotions.
Prayer of Saint Ephraim
O Lord and Master of my life,
Grant not unto me a spirit of idleness,
of lust for power,
and of vain speaking.
But bestow upon me, Thy servant,
the spirit of chastity,
and of love.
Yea, O Lord and King,
grant that I may perceive
my own transgressions,
and judge not my brother,
for blessed art Thou
unto ages of ages.
Sharing the Real Life of Jesus Christ Together.