The Art of Lent – Day 8, Thursday

Go and gather together all the Jews of Susa and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will do the same. And then, though it is against the law, I will go in to see the king. If I must die, I must die.

Esther 4:16 NLT

Fasting is most often a tool for praying specifically with laser-like intention and focus on one topic – an important decision, a stronghold of sin, or even a national crisis like the one Esther was facing. Pray and ask God to point his laser beam into your life and show you where you may need a focused time of prayer or fasting. Write that in the center of the page and draw a shape around it. From that central idea, brainstorm actions you need to take and draw the thoughts God brings to you as an idea map.

The Art of Lent – Day 7, Wednesday

When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. The your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!

Matthew 6:5-13 NLT

Meditate on these instructions Jesus gave us about prayer. God honors our humility, honesty, and directness when we pray. Jesus then models that in the next verses (Matthew 6:9-13) that we call the Lord’s Prayer. Rewrite that prayer in your own words to reflect your needs and your relationship right now with God.

The Art of Lent – Day 6, Tuesday

The people of Nineveh believed God’s message, and from the greatest to the least, they declared a fast and put on burlap to show their sorrow. When the king of Nineveh heard what Jonah was saying, he stepped down from his throne and took off his royal robes. Hes dressed himself in burlap ans sat on a heap of ashes. Then the king and his nobles sent this decree through the city: “No one, not even animals from your herds and flocks, may eat or drink anything at all. People and animals alike must wear garments of mourning, and everyone must turn from their evil way and stop all their violence. Who can tell? Perhaps even yet God will change his mind and hold back his fierce anger from destroying us.”

Jonah 3:5-9 NLT

The fast declared by the king of Nineveh was both a demonstration of belief in God’s message and mourning for his people’s evil ways. The king recognized that an about-face was required if they were to escape God’s wrath. Imagine that you are a news reporter on the scene. Write an article about the events in Nineveh or an interview with a character in the story.

The Art of Lent – Day 5, Monday

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, on final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Philippians 4:6-8 NLT

As you read these verses, write down seven words that stand out to you. Use these seven words to write a poem, with each word in your list as the first word of each line. Your poem doesn’t have to rhyme or follow any set verse pattern, so just follow God’s prompting and write what fills your heart.

The Art of Lent – Day 4, Saturday

Because of God’s grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have – Jesus Christ. Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials – gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward.

1 Corinthians 3:10-14 NLT

Jesus is our foundation, our cornerstone. In this passage, our works are imagined to be a building that will survive the fire of judgment so long as everything is built on Jesus. Draw the temple that you are building on Christ. Then draw the temple you have built with your self or the world as a foundation. What are your bricks made of for each temple? How solid is the foundation of each temple?

The Art of Lent – Day 3, Friday

And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

Matthew 6:16-18 NLT

Fasting as a spiritual discipline serves to focus our energy on God, and not to draw accolades on ourselves. Using this scripture as a reference, write an advice column answer to someone seeking guidance on fasting.

The Art of Lent – Day 2, Thursday

Don’t believe me unless I carry out my Father’s work. But if I do his work, believe in the evidence of the miraculous works I have done, even if you don’t believe me. Then you will know and understand that the Father is in me, and I am in the Father.

John 10:37-38 NLT

The miracles Jesus did left evidence behind, and that evidence pointed straight to Jesus being the Son of God. What evidence of Jesus at work do you see in your own life? Draw something that represents the proof that he is working in your life and that Jesus is who he says he is.

The Art of Lent – Day 1, Wednesday

Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven. Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

James 5:13-16 NLT

The power of God animates prayer and provides us with a direct line of communication with our creator. As you sit with these verses and pour out your heart to God, write him a letter about what comes to mind most as you pray. Are you suffering hardships? Pray about them as a letter. Are you happy? Write a letter full of praises. Is your heart burdened by unconfessed sin? Confess it in your letter.

A Lenten Invitation

Depending on your experience with church traditions, you may or may not care that the season of Lent begins today. If it’s not something you’re familiar with, Lent is the 46 day period preceding Easter Sunday that begins on Ash Wednesday. You’ve probably heard of Lent as a 40 day period of fasting (people often choose one thing to “give up” during Lent, like meat or coffee or chocolate), so 46 days seems like church people are bad at calendar math. The old traditions of Lent required some form of fasting every day except Sunday, so the “extra” 6 days are the 6 Sundays between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. Lenten fasting in current traditions varies by church denomination if it is observed at all.

I grew up going to Baptist churches, and that’s still where I attend, so I’m not as familiar with Lent as a regular yearly practice, but I think it’s a lovely tradition that focuses on spiritual discipline and preparing our hearts for Easter in the same way that Advent looks forward to Christmas. Several years ago, I led a group that focused on creativity as a way to worship God and study the Bible, and I wrote some creative journaling prompts for the group Lent. Rather than fasting, we decided to focus on the spiritual discipline of daily Bible study in the 40 days (plus the 6 Sundays…) leading up to Easter.

For a whole lot of reasons, this year I want to share those prompts with anyone who’d like to journal through Lent and build a practice of daily Bible study. Each day’s prompt has a short Bible passage to read and then something to write or draw in response. I’ll share each day’s prompt here on the blog as well as social media each morning. I’ll use #artoflent on the social media posts if that will help you find them. As I update this site and my e-mail list, I’ll point you to options to sign up for a daily e-mail version. (My goal is to have that worked out by the end of the week, but in the interest of being honest, there are some other things that need to take priority over blog work.)

If this turns out to be something you love, please feel free to share the prompts if you know someone else who might enjoy them. As always, I’d love to see what you create if you are willing to share it. You can comment, tag me on social media (also use #artoflent), or e-mail me at mabbat@gmail.com if you don’t want to share publicly. Even if creative work isn’t your thing, I pray that the verses each day will draw your heart to meditate on God’s word and the sacrifice of Jesus that is the focal point of church Easter traditions, regardless of denomination. I pray that this Lenten Season will be a time of renewed spiritual discipline and deeper faith. And I’m planning to return to regular content posting after Easter.