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Lent: A Forty Day Journey of Faith by Elliott Burke The spring season is close upon us and for the next several weeks we will be focusing on ways we can draw closer in our relationship with God and others. You may be unfamiliar with Lent and the purpose of prayer and fasting. Maybe you already know more than you care to. Either way, we’d like to welcome and encourage you to join with us communally in this period of praying and fasting. We have a rich history to draw upon for our observance of Lent. Since about 326 AD it has been a tradition of the church to observe the 40 days leading up to Jesus’ betrayal, crucifixion and death with deep contemplation and self-examination, typically noting areas of our selves where we have failed and earnestly desire to see change, asking God for His forgiveness and help to overcome them. By focusing intently on the life of Jesus and the purpose He served in coming to usto give us freedom and life more abundantly than we could ever dream or imagine- we join ourselves into the narrative of His passion- His betrayal and agony, public humiliation, suffering and crucifixion which culminate in Holy Week at the end of Lent. God Himself comes to us in our weakness, and in prayer and fasting we not only acknowledge our weaknesses but we become acutely aware of them. God’s faithfulness to us is proven true through our faithfulness in turn to God. When we expect to see God move in the difficult areas of our lives we will receive the freedom and life we have been praying for. After six weeks- at the end of our forty days of Lent- we join together on Easter Sunday in celebration of His resurrection and victory over death in our lives, our family and friends, our community and the world. Much of our tradition of praying and fasting comes from the Israelites, our spiritual ancestors. During our Lenten season, as we draw closer to God, to others and even to our selves, we will cross paths with and flow deeper into the presence of God through some incredible stories of faith. Communally, we will meet at a cross road with our Jewish family as they prepare themselves for Pesach- the Passover where God spared the Israelites, delivered them from the bondage of Egypt, and guided them into the new land. For most Jewish believers this will be a time of intense reflection and examination of how God has been their help and what they might do to align their wills with God. After a period of thoroughly cleansing their houses of leaven in preparation many will fast for a week on unleavened bread, the bread of haste which sustained the captives on the night of their flight into the freedom and the mystery of God awaiting them. When we arrive at Holy Thursday we will recall the last supper of Jesus with His disciples- their communal Passover observance before they themselves are led out into the mystery of God and His faithful, sovereign deliverance in their lives. Lent- as is Easter- should be an exciting time in our year. The annual story of Jesus death and resurrection is echoed through nature as the days grow longer and warmer and


as we draw away from the cold sleep of winter into the vibrant burst of spring awakening us, reminding us of the hope and faith of new life. As a church we want to join together in praying for what God has for you and your families, for Northampton and the Pioneer Valley, for New England, for the country, for our world. Many of us came from a church which set a precedent in ways to make our Lenten journey together more constructive and powerful. We are including some ways we have discovered to draw closer to God during this time and get the most we can out of our spiritual practices and disciplines. Prayer Prayer is a great way to develop your relationship with God. It is actually His recommended practice, so trust that this is what God would have you do and that He will be with you when you pray. I once overheard a woman remark about another that (quote) “She wants to get to heaven but she don’t want to pray to get there.” There is a lot of truth in that. If we want to see God act in our hardest situations we have to admit our weaknesses and ask. Prayer is as much about asking God for help as it is spending time getting to know God better, and there is a lot God would like us to ask for. God knows what our needs are. We can stand in certainty on that presumption, knowing of God’s awareness and care, yet God prefers that we tell him about our needs. In turn, we learn more about who God is and we can share this as well as pray with others. Ask God The Bible has a few things to say about prayer. In Matthew 6:33 Jesus said “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” And Paul wrote in James 4:2-3 that “...The reason you don't have what you want is that you don't ask God for it. And even when you do ask, you don't get it because your whole motive is wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.” This is a great place to start in prayer. It isn’t that God doesn’t want us to be concerned with our needs or even our desires. God does, but there is much more to the hours of our days that God is inviting us in on. Perhaps we can begin Lent by asking God what He wants to do through this season. Pray for Your World We all have invested much in Northampton and the community here with our families, our church, our work and our lives, and God wants to show His care for others and us in this, too. Ask God what is on His heart for the area. Take time to listen to what God has to say and pray according to His leading. Each area that you are involved inyour family, neighborhood, work and community- is an area that God has placed you in to be effective in its nurturing and growth. Pray At Least One Hour Per Day


Try to spend an hour each day during Lent in prayer. Pick a time that works best for you and find a quiet and comfortable space to be in. Expect that God will meet you in this time. We can begin by asking God how He is and what is on His heart. You will most likely be surprised at His answers! We have included a “Quiet Hour Prayer Wheel” to help you focus on different types and topics of prayer, and included in this outline we have the scriptures of each segment printed for you to reflect and pray on. If you happen to get distracted during this time, take a moment and look at where your thoughts are taking you. It may be something you need to pray about, like finances or a difficult relationship, or you may need help from God to get past distractions and into focus with Him. Pray the Psalms Praying the Psalms is a tradition of many churches and it’s a great way to get into prayer. We recommend that you spend some time with them. Don’t just breeze through them. Most of the Psalms are short and poetic, and it is easy to casually read through them. Start with three per day. Read them out loud and slowly so that the meaning sets in to your heart and thoughts, then spend some time praying and thinking about the verses you read. Ask God what He would like to show you through these words. Read and pray them again if you like or continue on to another group of Psalms. Pray with Others Joining with other people is a great way to get into the heart of prayer. Whether it’s once a day or once a week, whatever works best, is up to you. Small Groups are perfect for this or you can join us at the church for Morning Prayer on Wednesdays and Fridays. Find a friend or two who will partner with you in prayer at a time that works best for you. Pray for Others We all need prayer and to know the presence of God’s love and care in and for our lives. Prayer really does make a difference in the outcome of our choices. What’s moremost of us never really feel adequate when it comes to prayer, and that is fine. Prayer is God’s spirit working with us toward the fullness of His presence. If we felt confident in ourselves we’d have less need of God. Prayer, just like any creative discipline- writing, playing an instrument or drawing- improves with practice, and there are always people who can benefit from and appreciate your prayers. Ask For Prayer We believe in the power of prayer and we want you to receive all that God has intended for you. Always ask for prayer no matter how small or great or how often. Come and receive prayer after the service on Sunday, at your Small Group or at Morning Prayer on Wednesday and Friday. You are always welcome and we’d love to pray with you!


Fasting Traditionally, fasting involved a choice to abstain from food, particularly meat. While fasting can be beneficial to your natural health as well as your spiritual well being, it can also be used to deepen our appreciation for what God has given us and to break the power of what influences or controls us. Many people fast from food during Lent, whether it is the traditional forgoing of meat on Fridays or, as some people practice, giving up one meal a day. Fasting can involve as little or as much as you prefer but please take some precaution when fasting from food. Spend some time asking God about what you should fast from, and ask others to pray with you. If you choose to fast from food it is usually a good idea to start small and let people close to you know this so that they can help support you in it. Please note: If you have any history of eating disorders, are pregnant, or have any medical concerns, please don’t do a total food fast. You might instead consider fasting from things like coffee, dessert, web-surfing, television, or other alternatives. We closely follow Jesus’ example of chastening himself while fasting and praying in the desert where he was tempted by the devil. At the conclusion of forty days he began his public ministry of healing, deliverance and restoration with power and victory over temptation, sin and even death. Similarly, when the disciples felt powerless to overcome the works of the devil in the lives of others, Jesus replied, "This kind can be cast out only by prayer and fasting." Matthew 17:21; Mark 9:29 Other Ways to Fast The beauty of fasting is that there rarely is a downside to it. When you fast from food you develop a greater appreciation of your favorite foods in addition to sharpening your sense of taste and smell. Fasting doesn’t have to involve food. It can be a fast from anything that you rely on, are influenced by or depend upon. I come from a family prone to alcoholism, and I myself had previously struggled with overuse of it. Several years ago, while I was working at a restaurant that allowed its employees to have a drink or two with dinner at the end of the evening, I became concerned about how it was affecting me and decided to fast from alcohol through Lent. The experience freed me from the need to drink casually and I came through it with the certainty that it wasn’t going to become a habit. Plus I was able to appreciate it by savoring its flavor slowly instead of drinking to relax. I know people who have similarly fasted from cigarettes, coffee, sugar, television, the internet, working overtime, careless talk, sleep and idleness- whatever works for you. The Bible also has something to say about fasting which would be worthwhile to consider. God addressed the people of Israel through His prophet In Isaiah 58:3-7: 'We have fasted before you!' they say. 'Why aren't you impressed? We have done much penance, and you don't even notice it!'


"I will tell you why! It's because you are living for yourselves even while you are fasting. You keep right on oppressing your workers. What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like a blade of grass in the wind. You dress in sackcloth and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the Lord? "No, the kind of fasting I want calls you to free those who are wrongly imprisoned and to stop oppressing those who work for you. Treat them fairly and give them what they earn. “I want you to share your food with the hungry and to welcome poor wanderers into your homes. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. “ Fasting can not only help us to draw closer to God and release us into freedom from things, it can allow us to draw closer to one another and free up our resources- time, food, materials and money- for others. Ask For Bold, Wacky Faith Bold, wacky faith is a common theme for us at the Northampton Vineyard, and we would love to know of the big dreams you have for yourself are and to see what God wants to do with them. In John 10:10 Jesus said “I came so they can real and eternal life, more and better than they ever dreamed of.” That’s what we as a community are after- for you and your family, for Northampton, for ourselves and for New England! We seriously pursue the statement of our church- “Experience The Life You Never Knew You Always Wanted”- and we want you to receive all that God has intended for you. Spend some time praying and ask God what His vision for you is and write it down. You may be surprised by what you discover! Then pray and tell God what your biggest dreams are and write this down also. If you have any fears involving what you and God share with each other, then tell them to God and ask Him to remove them from you. Write them down also if you feel comfortable doing so. During this season of Lent we will be praying to draw closer to God and deeper into our relationship with Him. With that in mind we are expecting to see God in a greater way than ever before and to experience life more fully than we previously had or ever imagined was possible. We’ve included an outline to help you focus on what you’d like to see happen during these forty days and through the coming year. Think about what you would like to see changed in your life. Pray about it, write it down and turn it over to God in trust and faith that He will help you. You may want to use this as an outline only and write your prayers down in a journal or notebook. Any way you prefer to do it, it helps to have it readily available so that you can look back and see how God is working with you. At the beginning there is a weekly section for you to reflect upon. Write down what you are thankful about and want to praise God for. If there are areas which you feel you


need to repent of or you need to ask or extend forgiveness, write these down. Ask God to forgive you and, if possible, ask forgiveness from anyone who you have wronged. Next, in the intercessions and petitions section, write down and pray for those who need your prayers and situations where you would like to see God help you or others in. Then confess to God any fears that you struggle with and would like help in overcoming. We can easily be stifled by our fears- especially the really small ones! Faith challenges us to confront our fears and to step out into the unknown with a greater trust in God. Write these down so that you can return and see how God has helped you overcome them. For the next section write down any commitments for the week you would like to make. There are probably many matters of importance for you to write here- contacting a prospective employer, finishing a project, calling an old friend or visiting someone. Use this as a reminder that you need to do this. On the last page there is an outline for you to write down any goals you would like to set for yourself. It’s broken down into sections of one week, one month, three months, six months and one year. These goals may already be clear to you. Perhaps you’ve always had difficulty in structuring your plans. Use the forty days of Lent to help you prepare a storyboard of your dreams and ask God to show you how you can accomplish them.


Praise & Thanksgiving 1_______________________________________________________________ 2_______________________________________________________________ 3_______________________________________________________________ 4_______________________________________________________________ 5_______________________________________________________________ 6_______________________________________________________________

Repentance 1_______________________________________________________________ 2_______________________________________________________________ 3_______________________________________________________________ 4_______________________________________________________________ 5_______________________________________________________________ 6_______________________________________________________________

Forgiveness 1_______________________________________________________________ 2_______________________________________________________________ 3_______________________________________________________________ 4_______________________________________________________________ 5_______________________________________________________________ 6_______________________________________________________________ Intercessions 1_______________________________________________________________ 2_______________________________________________________________ 3_______________________________________________________________ 4_______________________________________________________________ 5_______________________________________________________________ 6_______________________________________________________________ Petitions 1_______________________________________________________________ 2_______________________________________________________________ 3_______________________________________________________________ 4_______________________________________________________________ 5_______________________________________________________________ 6_______________________________________________________________


Fears to be healed of 1_______________________________________________________________ 2_______________________________________________________________ 3_______________________________________________________________ 4_______________________________________________________________ 5_______________________________________________________________ 6_______________________________________________________________ Commitments for the week 1_______________________________________________________________ 2_______________________________________________________________ 3_______________________________________________________________ 4_______________________________________________________________ 5_______________________________________________________________ 6_______________________________________________________________


Goals: Week 1_______________________________________________________________ 2_______________________________________________________________ 3_______________________________________________________________ 4_______________________________________________________________ 5_______________________________________________________________ 6_______________________________________________________________ Month 1_______________________________________________________________ 2_______________________________________________________________ 3_______________________________________________________________ 4_______________________________________________________________ 5_______________________________________________________________ 6_______________________________________________________________ Three Months 1_______________________________________________________________ 2_______________________________________________________________ 3_______________________________________________________________ 4_______________________________________________________________ 5_______________________________________________________________ 6_______________________________________________________________ Six Months 1_______________________________________________________________ 2_______________________________________________________________ 3_______________________________________________________________ 4_______________________________________________________________ 5_______________________________________________________________ 6_______________________________________________________________ One Year 1_______________________________________________________________ 2_______________________________________________________________ 3_______________________________________________________________ 4_______________________________________________________________ 5_______________________________________________________________ 6_______________________________________________________________


Praise Know God for who He is and what He has done Your unfailing love is better to me than life itself; how I praise you! Psalm 63:3 With Jesus' help, let us continually offer our sacrifice of praise to God by proclaiming the glory of his name. Hebrews 13:15 Waiting Be still before the Lord Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. Don't worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes. Psalm 37:7 "Be silent, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world." Psalm 46:10 But those who wait on the Lord will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31 The Lord is wonderfully good to those who wait for him and seek him. Lamentations 3:25 Confession Confess and He will cleanse Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. Psalm 139:23 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. 1 John 1:9 Pray the word Use scripture in your prayers The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart.


The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight to life. Psalm 19:7-8 Does not my word burn like fire?" asks the Lord. "Is it not like a mighty hammer that smashes rock to pieces? Jeremiah 23:29 Watching Develop your spiritual eyesight Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, "Couldn't you stay awake and watch with me even one hour? Keep alert and pray. Otherwise temptation will overpower you. For though the spirit is willing enough, the body is weak!" Matthew 26:40-41 Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Colossians 4:2 Intercession Pray for others I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. As you make your requests, plead for God's mercy upon them, and give thanks. [2] Pray this way for kings and all others who are in authority, so that we can live in peace and quietness, in godliness and dignity. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 He felt great pity for the crowds that came, because their problems were so great and they didn't know where to go for help. They were like sheep without a shepherd. He said to his disciples, "The harvest is so great, but the workers are so few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send out more workers for his fields." Matthew 9:36-38 Only ask, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance, the ends of the earth as your possession. Psalm 2:8 Petition Pray for yourself Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And the door is opened to everyone who knocks. You parents —if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! If you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him?


Matthew 7:7-11 You want what you don't have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous for what others have, and you can't possess it, so you fight and quarrel to take it away from them. And yet the reason you don't have what you want is that you don't ask God for it. James 4:2 Thanksgiving Count your blessings Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Philippians 4:6 No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Singing Sing a new song to the Lord Worship the Lord with gladness; Come before him, singing with joy. Psalm 100:2 I will sing a new song to you, O God! I will sing your praises with a ten-stringed harp. Psalm 144:9 Then you will sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, making music to the Lord in your hearts. Ephesians 5:19 Meditation Focus your thoughts on a verse or passage Study this Book of the Law continually. Meditate on it day and night so you may be sure to obey all that is written in it. Only then will you succeed. Joshua 1:8 Listening Listen for His still small voice And don't make rash promises to God, for he is in heaven, and you are only here on earth. So let your words be few. Ecclesiastes 5:2


"Go out and stand before me on the mountain," the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. [12] And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. 1 Kings 19:11-12 Praise Know that the Lord is God I will praise you forever, O God, for what you have done. I will wait for your mercies in the presence of your people. Psalm 52:9 Shout with joy to the Lord, O earth! Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy. Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and bless his name. For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation. Psalm 100:1-5 Š Elliott M. Burke


Forty Days of Lent - A Guide