By Snr Ps Beh Soo Yeong
Last Wednesday, about 113 of us from the English, Chinese, Teenacity and Crux services gathered for our Ash Wednesday service to mark the start of Lent. Lent is a season in the Christian calendar comprising 40 weekdays, beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending on Good Friday. Without being ritualistic, Lent is set aside as a time when we intentionally practice self-examination, self-denial, prayer and penitence to remember Chris’s life, death, and resurrection.
Would you, this Lent season, notwithstanding your busyness, intentionally insert pit stops for reflection, Bible reading and prayer? Whether it is a daily practice, a midweek refuel, or a retreat, setting aside time and space for these practices would certainly breathe life into our weary souls. I find these exercises a helpful reminder of what Christ says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5.6). Often, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of life (and yes, even ministry), my mind, heart and spirit are not attuned to the Lord as acutely as I would have liked. Lent season then, serves as a pit stop to slow down and centre in to pay attention to the spiritual life that we have always been called to.
Of course, the challenge is getting down to it. Our Elder Lynette shared two weeks ago in this column the many hindrances to our growth in prayer: busyness, struggles, loneliness, tiredness and shame. I am sure many of us identify with them. Because of these hindrances, we do not hunger and thirst enough, do we? How then do we sharpen our spiritual senses and heighten our hunger and thirst for God and his righteousness?
Perhaps the various avenues and resources provided by the church can be tapped on: Lent Devotional Guide, prayer course (where there will be teachings and practices of various ways to pray) and the 24-7 Prayer Relay during the Passion week (2-9 April this year). Those who find it difficult to sustain these exercises alone can find a buddy or more to encourage each other. Pray for each other to be made hungry by the Lord. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill us and enliven us, because that is what he loves to do – to draw us nearer to Jesus and love him more! Go on your knees in the privacy of your room to seek his face, desperate for him to do a new and deep work in you. Maybe your heart and soul are not yet tender, but let your body, bent in submission, tell your heart and soul to hunger and thirst for him, and soon enough, through the gracious empowering of the Holy Spirit, you will be filled again.
I find it fascinating that the church in Acts, when threatened and warned by the religious authorities not to preach the gospel, would pray instead, “Now Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness…” (Acts 4.29). Surely, they must have been terrified! Otherwise, why would they pray for boldness? They would pray for what they do not yet possess. Likewise, I believe we can pray for what we do not yet possess - that the Lord will awaken us if we are still in our spiritual slumber. I know that many of us are struggling and have even lost hope in our desire and attempt to be spiritually revived. Let us start there – the place where we surrender to the Lord our inability to revive ourselves, then pray that the Holy Spirit will fill and awaken us in our spiritual stupor.
Some of you may have been following the spiritual awakening in Asbury University, where they had a non-stop two-weeks worship and prayer since their chapel service on 8 Feb. It is purely the movement of the Lord through the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit leading students, faculty and staff to come before him. Confession, repentance, testimonies, prayer, worship, scripture readings, with a deep sense of love, joy and peace – these can only be led by the Holy Spirit, who comes and awaken his people, then sending them forth as his witnesses. What happened in Acts has been happening throughout history, and even today, albeit in different forms. The key, though, is the same – a deep hunger and thirst for the Lord to visit us through his Holy Spirit. Let us therefore pray for our own spiritual awakening this Lent season!