I remember the first time that I prepared to keep Lent. Brand new to the Liturgical traditions and having only a vague understanding of what it meant, I knew I was supposed to give something up. I understood that many people gave up alcohol. I thought that I could do that, especially as I rarely, if ever, drink. That didn’t feel like the spirit of Lent, though, so I decided the next most popular thing – I gave up chocolate.

Two days after my first Ash Wednesday, my wife and I attended the first week of the Alpha Marriage Course at All Saints Cathedral. That week, and for the next several weeks, I had to turn down very tempting chocolates and chocolate desserts. But it was not a good start to keeping a positive and spiritual mindset for my first Lent. In fact, each year that I gave up something for Lent, by week three it became a grueling marathon of “winning” Lent. My mindset drifted from growing closer to God to “God had better appreciate the sacrifice I am making by giving up (whatever).”


Then a few years ago I got tired of my rotten attitude during Lent and I decided to not give anything up. That seemed like skipping out on Lent all together so I decided that I would try adding something new to my life during Lent. I decided to read through the book of Psalms, weekly. I will admit that there were days that I struggled to read the correct number of Psalms.
Some days I crammed them just before midnight. But I found that by adding a new practice and intentionally pulling into God’s word and God’s presence, I grew during Lent. I developed a new appreciation of the Psalms and had more peace and happiness coming into Holy Week than I’d ever had before.


From that time forward I have been more focused on adding to my spiritual life during the season of Lent. I focus on practices that help me to spend time in God’s Word, that force me to slow my heart and mind, and that allow me to center myself in God presence. While I still value the discipline of fasting and its ability to help us focus on our Lord, I find that for myself, fasting is best done for short periods.


Some of my favorite practices have included using Anglican prayer beads, praying the Daily Office, reading the Psalms, and reading through the early Church Fathers.


The purpose and practice of keeping a Holy Lent is to deliberately draw you into a deeper relationship with God as you prepare your heart to celebrate his death, resurrection, and triumph over sin and death. I encourage you to cut out things that distract you from your relationship with God, but also intentionally spend time with God over Lent and feel your soul deepen in his presence.