Addition or Subtraction for Lent?

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I usually have good intentions about doing something meaningful for Lent each year, but then life gets in the way. I get distracted by the urgent but unimportant activities of daily life, and I arrive at Ash Wednesday with no plan. But this year is turning out to be different.

Lent is late this year (Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent, is March 2), and I’ve actually been spending time thinking about what to do. In the Catholic Church, Lent is a 40 day period during which we are encouraged to pray, fast, and give alms. It’s a time of preparation leading up to the celebration of Christ’s resurrection on Easter.

Most people (myself included) usually focus on the fasting part of lent, the subtraction of something from our life. We “give up something for Lent” as a way of practicing self-discipline. But this is just one aspect of Lent, and for me, it tends to turn into a self-improvement project which gets pretty far removed from anything spiritual.

So this year, I’m thinking about the other aspects of Lent, which are more about adding something. Giving alms isn’t only about money – it can be sharing other gifts that God has given us, such as our time and talents. Adding prayer seems straightforward, but I’m considering a broader definition of prayer this year. Prayer isn’t only praising God or asking for something. Instead, prayer can focus on developing a relationship with God. And this is what I’m choosing to add this Lent.

Since I still have time, I will spend the next week investigating resources to help me with this. I think it will be helpful to have tools to give me some structure. I’ll share my decisions in the next post, hoping that these options inspire someone else.

A Closing Prayer

Dear God, please guide my research and decision process so that I wisely choose a fruitful practice for Lent. Keep me from being overly ambitious and help me choose something that I can reasonably do for 40 days. But also prevent me from picking something too easy. Guide me to select a practice that challenges without overwhelming me and helps deepen my relationship with You. Amen.


  1. Insightful yet again. Like you, I always thought of Lent as a way to control bad behaviors — and I found it interesting that I could control those behaviors for God but not for myself. Sacrifice vs Enlightenment. Give rather than Take. Something to ponder. I look forward to next week’s research results.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is fascinating that we can make – and keep – a commitment to God but not to ourselves when it comes to changing bad behavior. I am excited to shift my focus onto something different this year and am finding many good resources.

      Liked by 1 person

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