Wednesday, March 9 marks the beginning of a season many Christians observe called Lent.
Lent recalls a time right after Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River, when the Spirit led him into the desert wilderness for 40 days of prayer and fasting. Many Christians observe some form of fasting or other self deprivation during Lent. Others try to devote extra time to prayer and scripture reading.
St. Benedict, in his guide for Christian monastic communities, which today is called The Rule of St. Benedict, suggested that ideally, every day should be lived as a day of Lent, meaning one should be daily committed to prayer, reading scripture, acts of self-denial, and doing away with bad personal habits. But Benedict realized that few had the strength for this on an ongoing basis, so he suggested using Lent as a time for washing away “the negligences of other times.”
I read a magazine article several years ago where the author suggested that a good discipline for the 40 days of Lent would be to give up the neglect of God. Rather than giving up chocolate or pull tabs or some other personal vice, perhaps a more effective Lenten discipline would be to consciously seek to pay attention to God in every aspect of one’s daily life. Even for those of us who worship weekly, the rest of our weeks can easily become devoid of any attention to God’s presence in our lives.
A first step in giving up neglect of God would be to spend time in a personal heart-to-heart talk between oneself and God. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a time exclusively devoted to private meditation. It can coincide with some regular daily routines: drive time, washing dishes, carrying out garbage, or a daily walk or other exercise regimen. Just as we can converse with others during such activities, we can also have a personal conversation with God during these times.
We don’t need to worry about impressing God with lofty language or well-chosen words; our talk with God should be like a chat with a long neglected friend. We share how our day has been, what is troubling us, and what has brought joy to our day. And, of course, as with any conversation, listening is as important as speaking.
If lately you have felt like God is not quite as close as He has been in the past, try 40 days of one-on-one conversation with Him. Perhaps it’s time to renew an old friendship.