We get excited about starting goals/changes we want to accomplish at times such as at New Year’s, or even at the start of a new week. A week or even a day’s goals is a little easier to achieve than a New Year’s Resolution which typically does not have an end time. Though many engage in setting ambitious goals with the New Year, the problem is by now many people have given up. The good news is we can try again this time with a focus of asking for the God’s help and offering up our efforts for a special prayer intention during the 40 days of Lent. What is Lent?
The practice of Lent (all ready in use by the year 300 A.D.) is about growing in self-discipline/mortification and holiness. It starts the 40 days before Easter (not counting Sundays) as a time to prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ victory over sin and death which reopened the gates of Heaven. The time period of Lent is based on 40 days Moses spent in prayer before receiving the Ten Commandments, and 40 days Jesus spent fasting to prepare for His public ministry. It is a time of self-improvement through the assistance of prayer and sacrifices or almsgiving. Here are some tips to have a good focus and effort to become a better version of yourself.
Choose a purpose bigger than you. What is a concern that’s near and dear to your heart? It could be about a strained relationship, or a family or friend who is struggling. It can be a need in your community locally or nationally. Maybe you have had a personal experience in your volunteer work of a special group of people in need? What if you offered up the effort as a prayer for that intention? For example, let’s say you want to lose weight, and you know your weakness is poor snacking choices when feeling anxious. On our own it is a battle of sticking to the goal and not rationalizing giving in to the habit. What if some dear friends are suffering from cancer, and you say, I really want to give into emotional eating and have some…but I am instead going to offer it up for my friends and for all who are battling cancer. You are not only doing it for your good, but for the good of others with your fasting sacrifice.
Make a plan. It is easier to manage and incorporate a few simple changes than it is a list of many. Make it doable, and what you really want to commit to at this time. If you want to stop a habit, replace it with what you want to be doing. Make the behavior you want clearly defined and specific to be successful. Rather than, I want to exercise more, say, I will set my alarm to get up at this time 3 times a week to walk on the treadmill for 30 minutes to take better care of the body that God has entrusted me with so I can be an energetic grandparent.
Feed the mind. You are the sum of the experiences in your life. If you want to improve yourself, you will find it in reading books to build strengths. All great leaders are readers, and our brains need exercise too. It helps us to focus, be creative, improve memory, learn/become smarter, communicate, improve critical thinking and can be inspiring and motivating. Many adults become passive in their free time, sitting down to see what is on TV or scrolling social media which increases stress, while reading is a way to reduce stress. Considering the season of Lent, why not make a goal to turn off the electronics and read 2 Chapters of the Bible each night starting an hour before you go to sleep?
Include the spiritual. We are created mind, body and spirit. The world is full of busyness and noise. Sometimes work can eclipse making time for family, and that may need an intentional goal of spending time with them. The question too for Lent needs to be, how much thought do we put in our being a child of God? To making a daily time to be in His presence and talk to God as your best friend? Sharing your concerns, what you are thankful for, and to listen—what is God waiting for you to listen to tell you? His love for us is the greatest, and the plans He has for us are far more wonderful than we can imagine.
It can be easier to offer up inconveniences or difficulties for a prayer intention, for there are many needs in the world for prayer! Pick one dear to your heart and it will make the effort more worthwhile than just trying to do it for yourself.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13