We have probably all experienced the benefits of preparation at some point. Or perhaps more memorably, the unfortunate outcome of being unprepared – the flop of an unprepared speech, a job interview or difficult conversation that’s gone awry because we thought we could wing it. Preparation makes joyful events more joyous, and challenges more manageable.
When it comes to Easter, the season of Lent provides an opportunity to prepare our hearts for what Christians see as the most significant day of the year. If you’ve never made Lent a practice – and I’ll admit it’s not been a consistent practice for me – why not give it a go this year? 2022 feels like a good time to try something new.
Think of Lent as a journey, a trail you might hike that leads to a glorious vista we call Easter, the central point of the Christian calendar. The death and resurrection of Jesus anchors our faith – it’s the birthplace of the movement that gave us life, the movement that continues to grow across the world today.
Easter, the season of solemn joy and exuberant celebration, reminds us yearly that the God who came in flesh suffered and died for us. In rising, Jesus carved a path through suffering and death. And now, as ever, our world needs a path through suffering and death.
So, this year, I want my heart to be prepared. I want to pause and remember, to celebrate and to give thanks. Even more as the brokenness of our world announces itself daily. Here are five ways we can prepare:
Give up something
Christians have practiced refraining from eating, or eating certain foods, in the 40 days before Easter for centuries. The key isn’t in the deprivation for its own sake. Fasting brings into focus the ‘thing’ we think we need until we turn our minds, and our hearts, toward the only source of real sustenance: Jesus. Fasting isn’t for everyone but giving something up over the journey toward Easter can help remind us of where our hope, and nourishment, lies – in the resurrected person of Jesus Christ. And news flash: fasting doesn’t have to be about food.
Join a centuries-long prayer meeting
Whether we engage in a fast or not, this hike up to Easter is a wonderful opportunity to reinvigorate our prayer life as we focus afresh on the death and resurrection of Jesus. There are many prayer guides available online or from your local church. As we pray through the season, we’re joining Christians of all denominations across the world who may also be taking this time to give thanks and prepare for Easter. We’re also joining centuries of Christians who’ve gone before us devoting this time to pray for our world. If you’re not sure where to start, the Lectio 365 prayer app is a great guide.
Revisit the Gospels
While I pray, I also find it helpful to dive into a daily Bible reading plan. YouVersion and the Bible Society offer some excellent options, including my personal favourite from N.T. Wright, which takes us through Matthew one day at a time: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/83-lent-for-everyone. Or we can take it at our own pace and read through one or more of the four Gospels, asking God to use his word to prepare our hearts for Easter in a, well, resurrected and fresh way.
Gathering with friends, family or your small group/Bible study and making Easter preparation a corporate focus is encouraging. Joining together, praying, reading the Gospels and discussing the life, death and resurrection of Jesus can prepare our hearts and rekindle a healthy interdependence on our faith community. Community has suffered during these COVID-affected times, and many of us have been forced into an isolated expression of our faith. But it was together that the disciples encountered the risen Jesus. Together he breathed on them, and together he sent them out (John 20:19). And later, at Pentecost, it was together that they received the Holy Spirit in Acts 2.
Ask for more
As we fast, pray, read the Bible and gather with other Christians, we take the opportunity to ask God for a renewed vision for the world we live in. At the sight of the risen Jesus, Mary’s worst fears were quashed (John 20:11-18), Thomas’s doubt overcome (and fellowship restored, John 20:28), and an immovable peace replaced the visceral anxiety of the disciples (Luke 24:36-45). Our world is broken – war, poverty, natural disasters, displacement and disease rage on as ever – but our hope rests in a living person. Our hope is alive! And when we give space to prepare for Easter, we give space for this hope to flourish and displace our fear and doubt.
When we give space and intention to preparing, we arrive at Good Friday ready to pause in the lament of God’s heart for his children. And then we arrive at Easter Sunday overjoyed and ready to receive peace, power and fresh hope that God is always at work in our world, always doing a new thing.
Meredith Wright is an assistant editor and writer at Baptist World Aid Australia.
This is the first in a series of articles from different writers about how they plan to observe Lent this year. Stay tuned for these stories in coming weeks. We pray that they might enrich your journey towards Easter.