Throughout biblical history we see 40 days of testing, waiting and drawing closer to God. Ash Wednesday and 40 Days of Lent typically mark a spiritual quest for Christians, though it’s often recognized as a Catholic tradition. It’s a time of prayer, service, sacrifice and self-examination. Look beyond the face of religion and into the heart …and see if God is calling you for the next 40 days. Does He want your attention and your heart focused on Him?
40 day spiritual journeys are well known in the Bible. In Genesis 7 Noah spent 40 days and nights on a boat while God destroyed everything he had created. In Exodus 34 Moses was on the mountain with God 40 days without eating bread or drinking water, while God wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments. In Exodus 16:35 the Israelites ate manna 40 days until they arrived in the promised land. They then suffered 40 years in the wilderness for disobeying God. In Deut 2:7 we’re reminded “The LORD your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast wilderness. These forty years the LORD your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything. ”
Jesus was called by God and immediately a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. Mark 1:11-13 NIV
Below are some ideas about spending 40 days with God.
Remember to choose a DAILY sacrifice or event for Lent. Giving up surfing, for example, is not a daily event. Look for something you do daily! -Christine Abraham
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40 Days of Lent
Financial Fast- One year during 40 days of Lent, my husband and I decided to give up (fast from) all luxury expenses. Since we use budgeting software, we were able to look at 12 months of luxury expenses (pizza, movies, coffee drinks, dining out, etc) and estimate the daily cost. We multiplied the cost by 40 days and then gave up these luxuries with a promise to God to give the money saved to charity. In the final two weeks my husband lost his job and we were tempted to keep the money. By faith, we donated the money and trusted God with our finances. By blessing others we were blessed by God. We learned how to live on less and continued to give up luxuries until he found new employment. It was truly amazing! You can learn more about this in the book “Fasting for Financial Breakthrough” by Liberty University co-founder Elmer Towns.
Food- Another year, we practiced 40 days of Lent by traditional fasting. We gave up specific foods or eating at specific times of the day. The concept is refraining from food for a spiritual purpose. One word of caution when fasting: watch your blood sugar! I ended up hospitalized after 40 days of liquids until 5pm and light meals in the evening. It turns out I had hypoglycemia and the artificial sweeteners in those high-calorie coffee drinks made me incredibly sick! Know your threshold and guard your health. You can learn more about this in the popular book “Fasting: Opening the Door to a More Deeper, More Intimate, More Powerful relationship with God“ by Jentezen Franklin. Recently I fasted 40 days from coffee (my daily addiction) and grown in wisdom as I pray. It was during a 40-day coffee fast where our NEW membership site was crafted!
Events- My children are making decisions about their own level of participation. They might fast from television, texting, Facebook or specific foods such as sweets, pizza or fast food. I’ve been fasting from technology each week, filling my day with scripture, fellowship and prayer. Unplug from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social sites… and plug in to Jesus. Finish a Bible study you never completed. Devote some time to Him…and be richly blessed. Elmer Towns explains the different types of Biblical fasts in his book “Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough.“
40 Days of Prayer
Devotionals– Now is a good time to start reading a devotional and praying each day. One year I read ten devotionals a day, for 40 days. One of the most popular devotionals is Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, where each day you read a sample of what Jesus might write to you. The Life Application Study Bible Devotional is more scripture based and focuses on Jesus’ life as seen through scripture. My Utmost for His Highest is a classic devotional with powerful words. I enjoy reading the Henry Blackaby devotional Experiencing God Day-by-Day and the Christine Caine devotional Living Life Undaunted. Beth Moore has some awesome devotionals too, especially Praying God’s Word Day by Day. Stormie Omartian has a popular series of prayer books, such as The Power of a Praying Wife, or the Power of a Praying Parent.I
Psalms– Pick up your bible during 40 days of Lent, and pray through the Psalms each day or read the book Praying the Psalms by Elmer Towns. As you read the verses, focus your mind on how you can apply the verses to your life today. Select a few favorites and memorize them.
Prayer Walk– Each day when you exercise (or just driving the car to work and carpool) go on a “prayer walk.” Notice your surroundings and pray for those people around you. Pray for your neighbors as you walk past their homes, pray for the person parked at the stoplight beside you, pray for those people in your path. Read the book PrayerWalk: Becoming a Woman of Prayer, Strength, and Discipline by Janet Holm McHenry.
Body Prayer– During the next 40 days of Lent, pray through your body. Start at your feet and toes and pray something similar to this “Lord, examine my toes and feet. Search for anything that is not pleasing to you, find anything that is toxic and does not honor you. Wash over my feet and toes with the blood of Jesus and allow my feet and toes to honor Him.” Repeat for each body part, from toes to head as you lie in bed and prepare to fall asleep.
Read– Turn off the television and read your Bible or Christian books for 40 days.
Memorize Scripture– Get some index cards and write out scripture verses to memorize. I use a spiral notebook, small enough for my handbag so I can carry it with me. There are also apps for your smartphone or computer which help memorize scripture. Make sure the verse is visible so you can read it often during the week.
Pray For a Child– If you are a parent or grandparent, pray for your children each day for the next 40 days. Pray for your nieces and nephews. If you sponsor a child through Compassion International, Gospel of Asia or World Vision then spend the next 40 days praying for your child. Pray for children who are waiting to be adopted. For the next 40 days, find children you can pray for.
Pray For a Relationship– Pray for your spouse, friend, boyfriend or a relationship. Focus each day on the same person and spend 40 days covering this person with your prayers.
Pray for Your Coworkers– Print a copy of the company directory or write a few names down on paper and pray for these people during the next 40 days. Pray for them to know Jesus, for peace and hope in their lives and for God to reveal Himself to them. Pray with expectation for goodness, peace, joy and hope in their lives.
Pray the Names of God– In the Experiencing God workbook, there is a long list of the names of God in scripture. Print this list and pray daily on His name and character. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal Him through His name. You can also find a book on this by Ann Springer called Praying the Names of God: A Daily Guide
40 Days of Praise
Worship Music- Change the radio station in your car or on your computer to Christian music and listen exclusively for the next 40 days of Lent. Scan YouTube for Christian songs and save your favorites in your profile. Listen to www.KLOVE.com on your computer or in the car. When I’m carpooling my kids will say “Just to warn you, my Mom likes to listen to this stuff!” Often their friends reply “Don’t worry, my Mom does it too!” We also play Christian music on our television when we’re at home… you can find it on satellite or cable if you search around the channels. If you like alternative and rock, listen to www.AIR1.com
Journal– Get a fresh notebook and journal your gratitude to God. Read the popular book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp and make a decision to start noticing the gifts God has bestowed upon you. This is especially wise if you are under a cloud of unemployment, financial worries, health problems or relationship troubles. Count your blessings for the next 40 days. Create a Spiritual Journal by listing prayer requests and Bible study notes during the next 40 days.
Beauty Treatments– When is the last time you used your body as praise to God? Created in His image…when you look in the mirror do you see the child He loves or something less beautiful in your own eyes? Explore opportunities to honor your body and treat yourself as a son or daughter of the King. What would you eat as His child? How would you dress? What would you do to maintain the body He created for you? Put this thought into your heart, pray over it and see if you need “40 days of beauty treatments” in the name of the Lord. Start praying on Psalm 139 each day and make a commitment to be fearfully and wonderfully made. Exercise, eat right and take care of the body God designed for you. Read the book Fit For Your Assignment by Reina Olmeda and implement some changes in your life.
40 Days of Giving
Giving Letters– In our modern day it’s rare to receive a letter or even a Christmas letter. Most people use the speed of text messages, email and Facebook posts. Why not break tradition and mail a handwritten letter, once a day, for 40 days. Mail to a prison ministry, a senior home, the teachers at your child’s school, or a network of friends.
Giving Joy– Read the book Spreading Joy Daily by Marie Wikle and find ways to share the love of Christ with others. The book is filled with simple ways to make a difference.
Cooking– My mother-in-law calls me her “Meals on Wheels” because I bring her homemade foods. If you are making a family meal, double the batch of spaghetti, soup, stew or lasagna. Package this with a loaf of bread and deliver it to your neighbors, family member or a coworker. Use the element of surprise and make their day special when you bring an unexpected meal. Make a batch of cookies, brownies or cupcakes and each day during the week find someone you can share them with. Make something healthy from the Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook or make comfort foods from Magnolia Home Cookbook or Miss Kay’s Duck Commander Cookbook. My family likes meals from all of these great books.
Giving Your Time– Spend 40 days giving your time and attention to your friend, spouse, children or family members. Pull yourself away from Facebook and social media, from the distractions of the television or internet…and center your time on someone else. Make a list with the number 1-40 and each day write a name of someone you are going to give time to. You can make a phone call, send an email, mail a card, or visit in person. Take the focus off yourself and your needs and give time to someone else.
These are just a few ideas to start you thinking about your own 40-day spiritual journey. The decision to spend 40 days focused on God is yours alone. Pray over this and see if you are led to do something or possibly wait for another time. Know that during your 40 days with God you will attract the attention of the enemy and he will throw flaming arrows your way. Stand firm with the shield of faith and keep your eyes and heart on God.
Fasting is not dieting! Remember, do NOT fast from any foods without your doctor’s approval. Be safe!