Lenten Exercise

The season of Lent — 40 days leading up to Easter — is designated as a time for intentionally taking steps toward greater spiritual discipline, spiritual simplicity, spiritual renewal and spiritual growth. Here are 40 prayers for the 40 days of Lent.

Day 1 For self-improvement. German theologian Albrecht Ritschl wrote, “If I long to improve my brother, the first step toward doing so is to improve myself.” Prayer: Dear God, help me to focus and fix my flaws rather than judging others. Scripture: Lk 6:42.

Day 2 To carry my cross. When people consulted with Thomas à Kempis about their troubles, he advised, “Carry the cross patiently and with perfect submission, and in the end it shall carry you.” Prayer: Dear God, I do not pray for deliverance from burdens, but for the strength and patience to bear them. Scripture: Mt 16:24.

Day 3 To help carry another person’s cross. This prayer was frequently uttered by Charles Wesley: “Help us to help each other, Lord, each other’s cross to bear.” Prayer: Dear God, let me be like Simon who helped Jesus carry his cross. When I see someone struggle with a burden, may I be the one who helps lift it. Scripture: Mk 15:21.

Day 4 To cultivate silence. “God is the friend of silence,” said Mother Teresa. Prayer: Dear God, let me discipline myself to make time for silent meditation. Help me to be still and thereby come to know deeper thoughts. Scripture: 1 Kg 19:12.

Day 5 To do the will of God. St. Gabriel Possenti said of himself, “I will attempt day by day to break my will into little pieces. I want to do God’s holy will, not my own.” Prayer: Dear God, my sincere prayer today is “thy will be done.” Scripture: Lk 22:42.

Day 6 For deeper joy. “Be merry, really merry. The life of a true Christian should be a perpetual jubilee, a prelude to the festivals of eternity,” advised St. Theophane Venard. Prayer: Dear God, let me find joy and happiness daily, even in the most unpromising of circumstances. Scripture: Ps 118:24.

Day 7To be a peacemaker. “Peace is not a dream or something utopian; it is possible,” noted Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI. Prayer: Dear God, Jesus said ‘Blessed are the peacemakers. I Strengthen my resolve to be a peacemaker and to encourage others to do the same. Scripture: Mt 5:9.

Day 8 To eat vegetarian. In her book, The Wisdom of the Saints, Jill Haak Adels writes, “Saints seem to be overwhelmingly vegetarian.” Prayer: Dear God, through this season of Lent, empower me to be like the prophet Daniel who practiced vegetarianism. Scripture: Dn 1:11.

Day 9 For a simpler life. “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity” was the desire of Henry David Thoreau. Prayer: Dear God, I resolve to clean out my home, giving away what is unused, unneeded and unnecessary so that I may be unfettered from material things. Scripture: Mt 19:24.

Day 10 To serve others. Irish wisdom says that God likes help when helping people. Prayer: Dear God, I want to be your hands and feet in serving and helping others. Scripture: Mt 23:11.

Day 11To reduce arrogance. “I see my chief obstacle to holiness is pride. I will overcome it,” declared Ven. Andrew Beltrami. Prayer: Dear God, let me clearly see and overcome arrogance and pride when they appear in my person. Scripture: Prv 16:18.

Day 12For a deeper desire of God. St. Alphonse Liguori correctly observed that “he who desires nothing but God is rich and happy.” Prayer: Dear God, increase within me the very desire to know you more clearly and more deeply. Scripture: Ps 119:18.

Day 13To be kinder. Mary, Queen of Scots, prayed, “O, Lord, let us not forget to be kind.” Prayer: Dear God, enlarge and expand kindness within me so that I am kinder than is necessary.” Scripture: 2 Kgs 25:28.

Day 14 For a humble spirit. Blaise Pascal endorsed humility when he wrote, “Do you wish people to think well of you? Don’t speak well of yourself.” Prayer: Dear God, no matter how many virtues I may have, let me retain a spirit of humility and modesty. Scripture: Mt 6:3.

Day 15To drop judgment. Mother Teresa wisely observed, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” Prayer: Dear God, let me put an end to being judgmental. Scripture: Mt 7:1.

Day 16 To forgive. Reformed theologian Lewis Smedes said, “Gandhi was right: if we all live by ‘an eye for an eye’ the whole world will be blind. The only way out is forgiveness.” Prayer: Dear God, help me become a great forgiver so that I am not waiting in ambush for revenge. Scripture: Acts 7:60.

Day 17For self-forgiveness. Author Daphne Rose Kingma offers this advice to people who feel guilt: “Holding on is believing there is only a past; letting go is knowing there is a future.” Prayer: Dear God, I do not wish to live with the burden of guilt. Help me to accept your forgiveness, let go of the past and embrace the future. Scripture: Is 43:25.

Day 18 To bless an enemy. “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” was the rhetorical question Abraham Lincoln asked. Prayer: Dear God, rather than retaliate against an enemy, help me find ways to bless and possibly transform an enemy into a friend. Scripture: Rom 12:20.

Day 19 To overcome. Poet Christina Rossetti said, “A fall is not a signal to lie wallowing, but to rise.” Prayer: Dear God, let me triumph over every tragedy. Scripture: 1 Jn 4:4.

Day 20To care for our world. “The earth will not continue to offer its harvest, except with faithful stewardship,” wrote St. Pope John Paul II. Prayer: Dear God, help me to care for your creation and to seek to correct whatever threatens harm to it. Scripture: Ps 89:11

Day 21To be like an angel. Author Tobias Palmer asks, “Could you and I — like angels — learn to carry the good message? Learn to be present when and where there is human need?” Prayer: Dear God, let me be an angel of mercy, ministering to those who are struggling. Scripture: Heb 1:14.

Day 22 For right speech. “Words are loaded pistols,” was the simple observation of Jean Paul Sartre. Prayer: Dear God, may my words inspire, not injure; heal, not hurt. Scripture: Prv 16:24.

Day 23 For hope. William Shakespeare thanked God because “to believing souls (God) gives light in darkness, comfort in despair.” Prayer: Dear God, may I always hope for the best, believe for the best and work for the best in all circumstances. Scripture: Zep 3:17.

Day 24 To learn from pain. Oscar Wilde said,” Suffering is a revelation. One discovers things one never discovered before.” Prayer: Dear God, I don’t want my pain to be wasted. Let me learn from it and unite it to Christ’s pain. Scripture: Gn 50:20.

Day 25To believe that God is good. “God is more anxious to bestow His blessings on us than we to receive them,” said St. Augustine. Prayer: Dear God, open my eyes to see your unconditional love for me. Scripture: Nm 14:18.

Day 26 To affirm faith in myself. Here’s how the famed Rabbi Nachman of Breslov stated it: “I believe I am very important in God’s eyes; I believe that I can return, no matter how far I’ve strayed.” Prayer: Dear God, help me believe that, with your help, I have the inner strength to change. Scripture: 2 Cor 5:17.

Day 27To count blessings. “We think that people are grateful because they are happy. But is this true?” asks Benedictine monk David Steindl-Rast. “Look closely, and you will find that people are happy because they are grateful.” Prayer: Dear God, let me count my blessings, not my burdens. Scripture: 1 Thes 5:18.

Day 28 To be an encourager. Encouraging is a simple concept according to Thomas Carlyle: “Tell a man he is brave, and you help him to become so.” Prayer: Dear God, I know that more people give up and give in due to lack of encouragement, so let me be an encourager. Scripture: Heb 10:24.

Day 29To be far more loving. Jonthan Swift made this sad judgment: “We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.” Prayer: Dear God, help me to love everyone and show that all are included in your love. Scripture: 1 Pt 4:8.

Day 30 For patience in suffering. St. Ignatius of Loyola made this interesting observation which can be a guide during a challenging time: “If God sends you many sufferings, it is a sign that He has great plans for you and certainly wants to make you a saint.” Prayer: Dear God, let me bear troubles and traumas with patience and with trust in you. Scripture: Prv 3:5.

Day 31To resist temptation. Evangelical pastor and author Erwin W. Lutzer said that “temptation is not a sin; it is call to battle.” Prayer: Dear God, grant me the grace to resist the worldly temptations of materialism, commercialism, and greed. Scripture: Jas 1:14.

Day 32 For perseverance in good works. ‘‘No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted,” wrote Aesop. Prayer: Dear God, protect me from discouragement as I serve others in your name. Scripture: Gal 6:9.

Day 33 To be a mirror. Father Edward Hays reminds people to “simply be the mirror in which others can see themselves as God sees them.” Prayer: Dear God, may I reflect back to people their own essential desire to love, to care and to be kind. Scripture: 1 Thes 5:11.

Day 34 For an open heart. “God sends no one away empty except those who are full of themselves,” said Dwight L. Moody. Prayer: Dear God, let me have an open, receptive heart. Scripture: Eph 1:18.

Day 35To put love into action. St. Augustine was asked, “What does love look like?” His answer: “It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.” Prayer: Dear God, let me put love into action moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day. Scripture: Jn 13:34.

Day 36 To bring light. An often quoted Chinese proverb teaches that it is better to light a candle rather than curse the darkness. Prayer: Dear God, allow me to be a beacon of light for all who are discouraged and despairing, weary and worn out so that they will not curse the darkness. Scripture: Mt 5:14.

Day 37For more careful study of the Gospel. Russian Orthodox St. Tikhon of Zadonsk said: “If an earthly king — our tsar — wrote you a letter, would you not read it with joy. . .and careful attention? The King of heaven has sent a letter to you — the Gospel.” Prayer: Dear God, create in me a desire to set aside time to study and reflect on Scripture, especially the Gospels. Scripture: Ps 119:47.

Day 38To overlook faults. “Every person should keep a fair-sized cemetery in which to bury the faults of his friends,” said Henry Ward Beecher. Prayer: Dear God, let me be ignorant of the faults of others. Scripture: Lk 6:37.

Day 39For greater inner peace. Dante Alighieri summed this up simply, “In his will is our peace.” Prayer: Dear God, help me cultivate your peace which surpasses all understanding. Scripture: Phil 4:7.

Day 40To continue advancing spiritually. “All growth that is not toward God is growing to Decay,” says George MacDonald. Prayer: Dear God, may my Lenten practices help to make great advances in my spiritual life, and may those continue throughout the year. Scripture: Lk 2:52.

REV. PARACHIN, a minister, journalist, and teacher of meditation and yoga with his wife, writes from Tulsa, Okla.