On Shrove Tuesday in 1445, a woman in Olney, England, lost track of time as she busily cooked pancakes in her kitchen. Suddenly, she heard the traditional ringing of the church bells calling the faithful to church for confession (“shrove” comes from the verb “shrive”, which means to confess). Fearing she was going to be late, the woman raced out of her house and ran to church, still wearing her apron and holding her frying pan! This event started a tradition where, even today in some parts of the world, pancake races are part of the festivities on the day before Lent begins.
Traditionally, Lent, the six weeks leading up to Easter, is a time for prayer, fasting, and giving to the poor. It is a time of self-examination and the consideration of areas of our life that require spiritual growth, as well as focusing on how we might outwork God’s sacrificial love, grace, and mercy in the world around us. In embracing Lent, we inherit a rich tradition that inspires exploration of new depths of relationship with God while actively, and intentionally, pushing against the natural pull towards self-focus and self-gratification.
As we approach “40 Days of Deeper Devotion” this year, let us deeply consider what we can fast as a means of heightening our awareness of God and making more room for Him in our lives. Fasting at Lent is connected to Jesus’ 40 days of fasting in the wilderness, which was preparation for His ministry ahead. Let us also be aware that our period of fasting is not just self-denial for its own sake, but preparation for a feast to come. Our 40 Days of Deeper Devotion has as its glorious end a great celebration at Easter!
As significant as it is, fasting is only one of the elements of our Deeper Devotion. In following the Lent tradition, both prayer and social action are also important. Again, these practices are not just religious acts, but intentional actions that create in us a greater hunger for God and for His moving in our world.
So how can I engage with “40 Days of Deeper Devotion”? I’m glad you asked!
Here are some ideas:
1. Gather in community around a table with friends, family, or Connect Group and feast on pancakes (maybe even have a race!) on Shrove Tuesday 13th February.
2. Share with others what you’re going to fast over the 40 days (note you get Sundays off!) and pray together that God would reveal Himself in new ways. Why not challenge yourself to be sacrificial like David: “I will not offer to the Lord my God sacrifices that have cost me nothing” (2 Sam 24:24).
3. Personally develop a new rhythm of prayer – maybe even try something different like going for a prayer-walk, or using the Lectio365 app to guide your prayers, or praying with another person each day.
4. Engage in City Care’s “Love Thy Neighbour” initiatives in March.
5. Find how you can show God’s love and kindness in a special way to someone in your immediate community.
6. Engage in an Instagram Live conversation with one of our Hillsong team each week for fresh inspiration and content, which will also be posted on this blog.
Then from Palm Sunday, the final Sunday before Easter, we’ll be stepping through “Passion Week” together with a YouVersion Bible-reading plan as we lead up to Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. Join us on the journey this year for 40 Days of Deeper Devotion!