Lenten Devotions

As I child I was encouraged to “give up something” for Lent.  For me, that often meant chocolate, or pop.  My siblings would likewise give up candy or gum.  Then for the next 40 days we’d make do with different treats.

The season of Lent is a time of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving in preparation of Easter. Surrendering our own desires these 40 days is one way Christians can draw closer to Jesus as we remember His ultimate sacrifice and prepare to celebrate Easter.

My yearly Lenten sacrifices didn’t change much until about 8 years ago, when I was slapped in the face by a most memorable homily.  We had recently moved and changed churches.  Our priest was known for his lengthy, complicated, evangelical sermons, and I have to admit I walked out of church more than once with my mental grocery list planned.  *ahem* I will never forget, though, the words he spoke in his Ash Wednesday homily the first year we attended our new church, and every year thereafter.  It went something like this:

Do not give up something that you are going to purge on Easter morning.  Your Lenten sacrifice of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups does not make you a better Christian if you eat a bag full of them before sundown on Easter day and forget all about Lent.

God doesn’t want your chocolate, He wants you.

When contemplating your sacrifice, make sure you are growing closer to Him.  Maybe you don’t need to give up anything.  Maybe you need to give something… namely, yourself.

If you must give up something, give up sin.

Pow!  So much for my measly break in chocolate, caffeine, or whatever else it was that I gave up temporarily before that moment.  Now I put a little more thought into the Lenten season.

Fasting: I love to cook and my family loves to eat.  During Lent I make simpler, nourishing meals, mostly skipping desserts and sweet snacks.  By keeping our meals simple we remember that there are people who have much less than us, and the time I save in the kitchen is used elsewhere in my Lenten devotions.

Fasting isn’t just about food.  The year of The Homily, I gave up computer games.  I had a nasty habit of coming home from work (before children) and sitting at the computer to play a game or ten for a few minutes hours.  I gave it up, gained some precious time, and haven’t turned back (to the games, that is).  Now I need to work on the lengthy amount of time I spend on the internet.  Boundaries!

Prayer: My prayer life generally consists of saying a prayer here and there throughout my day, while cooking and cleaning and changing diapers.  Pretty much whenever I think of it (which isn’t a bad thing, to pray throughout the day).  During Lent I make a conscious effort to go to bed earlier in order to get up earlier to make sure I get my quiet prayer time.  I also pray through a Lenten devotional book.  One for me, one for the whole family.  (I just pick these up at the back of church.)  This is something that I try to carry on with after Easter.  I’m usually pretty good until school starts up again… then I tend to fall off the wagon.

Our church offers Stations of the Cross and a communion service on Friday nights during Lent.  The timing is perfect because we are finished with basketball.  I will definitely try to attend this weekly event, also.

Almsgiving: Each year we make an effort to up our tithe to the church.  Lent is the perfect time of year to make that leap.

Another way that I give during Lent is to seek out families who need an extra meal or someone to watch their kids for a few hours, etc.  This year, with my father-in-law just getting out of the hospital and still having a long road of healing ahead of him, I have decided to fix a meal a week for my in-laws.  Also, I have decided to not whine and complain and feel sorry for myself *sigh* when my husband makes frequent trips to the farm to help his parents out while his dad’s ribs heal.  I tend to get selfish about our family time.  While important, I do need to relenquish that this Lent.

This Lent, I encourage you to grow closer to Jesus.  Be grateful for this time:  less of me, more of Him.

Visit Heavenly Homemakers for more Gratituesday and Works for me Wednesday at its new home, We Are THAT Family.

photo by Chris Inside


  1. Wow- what a powerful post, Amy. And what a life-changing homily! How incredibly true…

    I would love to do Lenten devotionals with my family. My husband is not actually Catholic, but has pledged to raise our children in the faith by my side. I think my kids are old enough now to enjoy that daily time and I actually think it would give my husband and me some great talking points as well.

    Love the idea of cooking more simply. I tend to whip out some fancy-pants seafood recipes during Lent so my resident non-Catholic doesn’t feel like he’s suffering. But maybe that’s the wrong idea there…

  2. Oh. this is SO true! I love this, Amy. I think this is the best summation of Lent I have seen in quite awhile.

    I always look forward to the Lenten season, although it seems to look a bit different year to year… but so full of blessing.

    Michele 🙂

  3. Beautifully put! I was contemplating giving up chocolate this year, as my past two Lents have been . . . less than ideal. I was also considering beginning the practice of saying the rosary daily (something I’ve wanted to do for quite a while, just haven’t made the time), and one other thing that escapes me at the moment. Regardless, exactly as you say – less of me, more of Him!

    As always, I’ll close with an update – I’m hoping my little one gives up FALLING OUT OF HER CRIB for Lent. Sigh. She was doing awesome with naps as I told you and it took a hard left on Sunday, culminating with an escape attempt or something today. She seems OK, though, and is (thankfully) napping now. My heartrate has yet to recover, though.

  4. as a baptist we never observed lent growing up. now i’m a wife of an unbelieve and plan on using this season to beg the Lord for my husband’s salvation

  5. Wow!! Great post. I was raised Baptist and didn’t learn the importance of Lent. Now that I am an adult I want my children to appericate this season and what it means.

  6. Great great post. I didn’t know much Lent growing up and still don’t really, but I think it’s a great thing, done in the right way like your priest describes.

    I was actually thinking I needed to research more about the meaning of Lent and what I would sacrifice. Thanks for posting this Amy.

  7. I’m right with you Amy. When we were raising our family, we took time after supper to do a Lenten reading, each child took turns. Then my husband or I would lead a simple discussion of what the reading meant. To finish up, we chose a different one of us each night and everyone would say something affirming about the person (what I like about him/her, what they do nicely) as simple as the age of the child but oh so heartwarming.

  8. Beautiful reflection and great advice! I’ve been spending all evening finishing up my Lenten preparations. It’s hard to believe that tomorrow is Ash Wednesday! Have a blessed Lent, Amy!

  9. Love what you said. I have to be reminded that He doesn’t want my chocolate, or even my caffeine. He wants my heart back. Thank you.

  10. I am not Catholic, but have been praying that God would reveal what he would have me give up for Lent. I felt like He was silent. But I want more of Him and less of me!!!

    Thanks for your post.

  11. What a great post to chew on with so many great thoughts on Lent and why we do it. Thank you for sharing this!

  12. Yesterday I visited an elderly cousin in an assisted living center. A man was playing the organ and I sang along with him and got some of the people to smile and sing. Better yet, take a child and teach the child about visiting the sick and the elderly. When I was a child, my dad would take me to visit his aunts and uncles.
    I asked, “Why are we visiting these old people?”
    Dad said, “Because when you are old, you will want someone to visit you.” I remember thinking, “I will never be that old…but now I am and I still enjoy visiting and thinking of my dad when I do.

  13. Great post. Started my Lenten study today. If anyone is needing one you can find it at http://www.northlandchurch.net/

  14. Great post, Amy! Lent has the potential to be such a transformative time in our lives. I’m struggling to explain it to the little children in my household. What is your strategy for that?

  15. This post truely gives us something to think about thank you for posting

  16. Beautifully put!!

    This year, I’m not giving up anything, but I am doing a progressive fast on Sundays–6 hours the 1st week, 9 the 2nd, 12 the 3rd & so on until Good Friday, then a 24 hour fast.

    I’m scared, because I’ve never done a full day fast before, but God will help me prepare and give me strength.

    I’m doing it because I feel like I’ve been very lax in my spiritual discipline lately.

    Thanks for this post!

  17. This is a wonderful post. A timely reminder that God wants us… not just our sacrifice. Thanks for putting these beautiful, encouraging words out there.

  18. Great post. At my bible study this morning we were discussing Lent and one woman said instead of giving something up she decided to add something to her day for Lent. She focuses on growing closer to Christ. I thought that was neat….


  19. Thank you for this great post – it made me think. And instead of focusing on giving up something you inspired my to add something this year. I still will avoid any kind of treats for the next 40 days but I will also remember every day that what God really wants is me.

  20. Good story. I was born and raised Catholic and have many family members who still are Catolic. I remember a few years ago how proud my Dad was that my brother and his wife (then girlfriend or fiance) had given uo ice cream for lent. I try not to be judgemental, when it comes to family. But the first thing that came into my mind, was, they are unmarried and living together and you are proud of an ice cream fast? Forunately that came into my mind, but not out of my mouth. What an excellent homily. I call them sermons now, but I still speak your language.

  21. Great post and a nice reminder.
    We didn’t observe Lent growing up, so I’ve always felt a little lost this time of year, trying to figure out how to observe. For the past few years I followed a special devotional schedule from my church. This year I’m involving my kids by praying for different people each day with them.

  22. Love this post, Amy! I wrote about a similar idea last week on my blog. I have to admit, it makes me feel much closer to God when I add in things like prayer, study of the Catechism (in a church group), etc. for Lent than to just give up chocolate.

    Thanks for the inspirational article!

  23. Thank you for your post.

    I grew up Catholic…but know go to a non-demoninational church
    I do do special devotions with my kids every lent.

    Thank you for your reminder.
    Last year I studies a different scripture verse every day of lent…
    it truly kept my mind less on me and more on the Lord Jesus.


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