I’ve never fully understood lent. And I’m starting to realise the reason for my confusion. OK, so I get that it’s the six weeks before Easter but the whole giving up stuff has me stumped. What I’ve actually seen of lent in my generation hasn’t been, well, very Lenty. In my circles, Lent has been more of an excuse to give up chocolate (so much nom) to lose a bit of timber or an attempt to resurrect those resolutions that were dead and gone by the 3rd day of January (Who’s with me?!).

Convenient Excuse

Lent has perhaps become a convenient excuse to shed a few pounds, or fast from digital life for a bit. Once all the pancakes are gone, people enter into a test of mental strength – a challenge – a mastery of will power. And if we do actually make it through Lent, we more often than not absolutely stuff ourselves when Easter comes – back to square one, like nothing happened.

Am I being a touch cynical? Perhaps. Not the whole picture? Definitely.

What all this does (apart from make everyone a bit grumpier) is put the focus straight on the self. Which is kinda the opposite of Lent’s purpose. Lent is actually about taking the focus from our desires and back onto Jesus and His Kingdom.

Fasting and Prayer

Tradition would say that Lent is 40 days of prayer and self-denial. It sounds super scary. The opportunity we have is not to just make it about the self-denial bit, but also add prayer into the mix too. And as we do, we join millions of Christians around the world who absolutely know the value of fasting and prayer. Especially those who are facing extreme persecution where they live because they have chosen to follow Jesus.

New Resource

That’s why we’ve cooked up a new, tasty resource, Fast Food, that will help you put proper prayer and fasting right back at the heart of your build-up to Easter. Centred around a series of weekly meals, each one focusses on a different country where Christians face persecution. You will eat food that’s eaten in that country and hear stories of incredible faith and dedication. You’ll be moved to pray and act for those who share our faith but not our freedom. And lastly, you’ll be challenged to act out a weekly fast.

These secret challenges will give you a taste of what life is like for Christians in the country you’re focusing on. It’s not a gimmick. This is about getting back to the basics of Lent. It’s about seeing how much Jesus gave up for us at Easter and being inspired by Christians around the world giving their lives back to Him as a response.

It’s not about you

You see, the persecuted church gets that fasting isn’t actually about us. It’s not about giving up the chocolates to shed a few pounds. It’s not about a digital detox that helps us feel more grounded in reality (and less addicted to our mates’ IG profiles). Nope. True fasting is about creating space and time for God to work. It’s about saying, like John the Baptist ‘You must increase, I must decrease’ (John 3:30). It’s about refocusing our priorities and being inspired by Him to love more, live more and take more risks. It is about seeing how much Jesus gave up for us and realising that He asks us to give our whole lives back to Him as a response.

So, lent and fasting? It’s not about giving up. It’s about giving back. (Meme!)

Don’t want to do something every week? Don’t panic! If six weeks of meals might be a bit much, you don’t have to do all the sessions. You could just do one or two. Start with a pancake party at the start of lent or end with an Easter Sunday breakfast. Grab the pack to check out the different session suggestions and tailor it to suit you!

Pete Hopper is Youth Manager and token dreadhead at Open Doors UK & Ireland. Blessed to be a husband and father to a growing family, Pete also has a worrying love affair with cake. He is otherwise a creative communicator – writing, performing, playing and speaking at every and any given opportunity.