Lent, which was once considered a strictly Roman Catholic observance, is now becoming commonplace amongst Christians of all expressions. Lent, which means “fortieth,” is the observance of the liturgical season from Ash Wednesday (the day after Mardi Gras) to Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday.
The traditional purpose is the penitential preparation of the Christian — through prayer, penance, repentance, donations, and self-denial. Its institutional purpose is heightened in the annual commemoration of Holy Week, marking the death and resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the events of the Passion of Christ on Good Friday, which then culminates in the commemoration and celebration on Easter Sunday of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
During Lent, many of the faithful commit to fasting or giving up certain types of luxury as a form of penitence. But fasting and the sacrifice of luxuries is not peculiar to just Roman Catholics or non-Catholic Christians. Many religions ob-serve special times during the year for special prayers and fasting. Some religions even encourage the reading of their holy scriptures during certain seasons.
For example, in addition to fasting, Muslims are encouraged to read the entire Qur’an during Ramadan. Some of the Jewish faith also pray, fast and read selected texts during their holy days. These practices for the Jews, and now many Christians, may be taken from the examples left in the Scriptures.
One example is found in Nehemiah 9: 1-3: “… the children of Israel were assembled with fasting … and stood and confessed their sins … and read in the book of the law of the Lord their God one fourth part of the day; and another fourth part they confessed, and worshipped the Lord their God.”
I have been asked, “What should the Christians read during Lent?” This question is presented to me by many Christians who attend non-liturgical or less liturgical worship experiences. Well, I have been blessed to expose this simple yet profound method of meditation that can be included during special times of prayers and fasting, such as Lent.
Solomon suggested in Proverbs 1:2-6 the reading of his sayings “for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young.”
He further said “Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance — for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.”
Persistent and consistent daily meditation is essential to continual maintenance of Christian character and a proverb a day helps to prevent spiritual decay. And since there are 31 chapters in the book of Proverbs, one can read the chapter corresponding to the day of the month and thereby always have a pertinent and powerful word for the day.
Proverbs is perhaps the most pronounced part of the Scriptures that provide passages to be perused daily, and principles to help one prosper deliberately, and patterns to practice diligently in a very potent way. One cannot peruse Proverbs without knowing whether one is playful (fool), plain (simple), proud (scorner, scoffer) or prudent (wise). Because the prudent person will profit from the parables in Proverbs and become more productive, more promising and the practices thereof will prolong life, and produce love.
Proverbs proves that people who place priorities properly will listen to wise counsel (1:5); obey wise leaders (10:8); remember the knowledge they gained (10:14); persuade others to righteous living (11:30); practice discretion in speech (16:23); and personify godliness (10:5).
So, you are destined to progress and benefit from the season of Lent and other times if you are deliberate and dedicated to prayerfully probing through Proverbs and practicing its principles even while fasting.
Dr. Walter T. Richardson is pastor-emeritus of Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church in South Miami-Dade County and chairman of the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board. He may be contacted at wtrichardson@Bellsouth.net. Website: WTRMinistries.com
Photo: Dr. Walter T. Richardson