Lent has historically been a time of fasting, penitence, almsgiving, prayer and study for those being baptized, reconciled, and those wishing to grow closer to God. Currently, we use Lent as a time for personal and collective transformations. We look truthfully at ourselves and make changes.
In scripture, we read two major scripture story arcs that use time apart, 40 years and 40 days, as a time of great change. The children of Israel were led out of bondage into freedom, but spent time in the wilderness to prepare for their promised land. Jesus went into the wilderness for forty days to prepare for his ministry. As these stories show, we can use Lent to break our bonds, make new choices and begin a new direction for hearts and lives.
Lenten Home Kits
Lent-in-a-Bag is one of the most popular of our take home activities. The bags are handed out on the first Sunday of Lent (one per household). The bag contains six objects, each in a snack-sized bag with a devotion stapled to the bag. Each kit also contains a booklet with the Bible reading that accompany each devotion. I find that including the scripture reading makes it easier for families to follow through on reading it.
Each week, after dinner or before bedtime, the family gathers together for prayer, scripture, and discussion using one object and its devotional from the bag. The time this takes is not take long, but families are so excited, especially the children, it is hard to get them to wait a week in-between.
Buying items in bulk helps keep the cost down to a little over $1 a bag.
Theme for 2020
Each year, I choose a different theme. For 2020, the theme is “Praying with Jesus”. Each scripture and devotion is about one of the times Jesus used prayer before a major act or immediately after:
– Before his ministry started, the wilderness (the object is a rock)
– Before choosing the 12 apostles (the object is a star)
– Before the Transfiguration (the object is a battery-operated tea candle)
– Before he was arrested (the object is a cross)
– After he fed the 5000 (the object is a fish)
– He taught how to pray (the object is a scroll with the Lord’s Prayer)
A Devotion For Each Week of Lent
Jesus Prayed Before Choosing the Twelve
Before choosing his 12 apostles, Jesus went to pray. He continued in prayer all night. Read Luke 6:12-16. Why do you think he prayed before choosing the 12? Why pray all night? When do you pray? What if before major choices, we prayed, do you think it would make a difference? We think of stars as important and even call some people a star. What if we made Jesus our star this Lent. What would that look like? As you pass around the star, name one thing about Jesus that you admire. Say a prayer asking Jesus to be your star.
Jesus Prayed Before the Transfiguration
Before Jesus’ transfiguration, Jesus took a few of his disciples and went up on the mountain to pray. Read Luke 9: 28-36. Jesus became filled with light and glowed, as well as, spoke with two prophets from a long time ago. When we are in darkness, we use light to help us see. What else do we use light for? When are times that you were afraid and a light made you feel better? Turn on the candle. We depend on light. What if we relied on Jesus, like we relied on light? As you pass the candle, say a prayer and each name one place in your life that you will include Jesus as the center (the light.)
Jesus Prayed After Feeding The 5,000
After Jesus feeds a large crowd, Jesus sends his friends on and goes to pray. He had tried to spend time in prayer before the feeding, but had compassion on the crowd. Read Matthew 14: 13-23. Just as Jesus fed the crowd food, prayer feeds our souls. It helps us connect with God. What are some things that feed you (helps you feel excited and full of energy?) When you are tired, what feeds you (helps you to feel better?) What is a way you can connect to God? Think of a short sentence that you could use to pray continuously to God (i.e. God be with me.) Fish need care. Our souls need care. Pass around the fish and say your short sentence as a prayer. When the last one has said their prayer, say the Lord’s Prayer together.
The Prayer Jesus Taught Us
Surprisingly, Jesus does not tell his disciples about prayer; he just does it. One, finally, asks Jesus to teach them how to pray. Read Luke 11: 10-8. This is what we call the Lord’s Prayer. It is the only prayer Jesus taught us. He starts by acknowledging God’s will is the most important then asks for the things we need to survive and moves into asking forgiveness for our sins (trespasses), but on the condition that we forgive others. Then we ask for guidance when we are faced with a difficult choice or situation. When do you pray the Lord’s Prayer? What is your favorite part? Are there other prayers you could pray that ask for the same thing? Unroll the scroll. Where is someplace you could place the scroll this week to remind all who see it to pray the Lord’s Prayer or a similar prayer? Say the Lord’s Prayer together and put the scroll in a place to remind each family member to say the prayer when they see it.
Jesus Prays Before His Arrest
Before Easter, there was Good Friday, the crucifixion. Before the crucifixion, there was the arrest of Jesus. Before the arrest of Jesus, Jesus goes to pray. He knows what is to come and requires the strength and connection that comes with prayer. He, also, asks his friends to come and pray with him, but they keep falling asleep. Read Mark 14: 32-41. I wonder how things seem, things we are very afraid to face or do, if we went to prayer for strength and connection? When do you like to pray alone? When do you like praying in a group? When do you like praying in a community? What do you like about each? What do you not like about each? As you pass around the cross, name one emotion Jesus was probably feeling. When everyone has had a turn, say a prayer asking God to be with you when you feel those feelings. Sit in quiet with your eyes closed, letting God’s presence be with you.
Jesus Prayed In The Wilderness
Before starting his ministry, Jesus went into the wilderness for 40 days. To prepare for his ministry, Jesus prayed. Read Matthew 4:6-11. While in the wilderness, Jesus was invited to transform stone into bread. Jesus knew he was not called to do this by God. Perhaps prayer helped him to know what he was called to do. Might there be a stony place in you that needs changing? Some attitude or habit that, with a little attention, might even become a gift for you and others? When you are angry or sad, it may feel like your heart has become a rock. How does that feel? How can you help someone who has a “rock” in their heart? When we are hungry or hurting it can be hard to do the right thing. How can we remember to choose to do the right thing? Pass around the rock. Using a permanent marker, write a word that everyone can pray to help you when you feel like you are in a rocky place.
This article was first published on Lauren’s Line: Connecting Children, Youth and Family to Faith.
Click here to see Lent in a Bag 2019.
The Rev. Lauren Villemuer-Drenth has been doing ministry with children, youth and families for over 20 years, in three dioceses. Previously, she worked as a Pediatric-Oncology RN. Currently, she is working at a large, growing parish and school in North Carolina.