What does it mean to “repent” and why is Lent such a powerful time to do so?

Lent is an ideal time for us to draw closer to God. When John the Baptist conducted his preaching ministry in the desert he cried out, “Repent!” (Mt 3:1), and when Jesus began to preach in Galilee he said exactly the same thing, “Repent!” (Mk 1:15). In fact, the very first words Jesus spoke are the same words used when we are signed with ashes: “Turn away from sin (i.e., repent) and believe in the gospel” (Mk 1:15).

Repent. To repent is to turn away from sin and self-centeredness and to turn to God, and prayer is one of the best ways to turn to God! If you have never prayed very seriously, or if your prayer life has fallen on hard times, Lent is a wonderful occasion to start or restart a warm, communicative relationship with God.

Prayer comes in two major forms:  communal and private. As you make your plans for a spiritually beneficial Lent, please give communal prayer important consideration. We Catholics regard the Mass as our highest form of communal prayer, so plan to attend Mass every Sunday. In addition to Sundays, Mass is offered on weekdays. Other options at church include the Stations of the Cross, holy hours, and benediction.

Communal prayer also happens at home when we pray with family or friends. Whether at the dinner table, in the living room, or at the bedside, consider offering prayers with one or more other persons, maybe the morning offering, prayers before meals, or night prayers. In addition to memorized prayers like the Our Father or the Hail Mary, try praying in your owns words:  things you would like to thank God for, reasons you want to praise God, people who you want to commend to God’s care, special needs and requests, as well as words of sorrow for the ways you may have offended God and neighbor.

Private prayer is the other half of a well-balanced prayer life. This Lent please reserve some time each day to pray alone. Options include silent meditation; scripture reading and reflection; the Liturgy of the Hours; Eucharistic Adoration; the rosary, litanies, and other composed prayers; spiritual reading, including biographies of the saints; prayer writing in one’s journal; singing sacred music, at home, in the car, or anywhere; a prayer walk outside; studying a theological topic; or viewing or creating religious artworks. Regular communication is key to every quality relationship. If we hope to be close to God, regular prayer is indispensable.

About Father Michael Van Sloun 

Father Michael Van Sloun is pastor of St. Bartholomew Catholic Church in Wayzata, Minn. As a former school principal, high school instructor and athletic coach, he has always been a teacher. He now teaches the faith as a homilist, Bible study leader, retreat director, pilgrimage guide and author of numerous articles.

© Rev. Michael A. Van Sloun
Used with permission.