Discernment in Making Lenten Plans

person sky gazing at purple sky

What will you do during Lent this year?

Will you fast from certain food and drink? Build in more prayer than usual? Make more donations of money, time, or talent? Attend Mass more often? Use a special Lenten devotional book for your prayer time?

Although the basic activities of Lent stay constant in Church Tradition—prayer, fasting, and almsgiving—our lives move and our interior landscapes shift from one year to the next. God knows that we experience change and that the “best” Lenten practice for us one year may not be what our soul most needs another year.

So, let’s do some discerning around this topic. How can we choose our activities or practices for this Lenten season? We can apply some Ignatian wisdom by asking questions such as the following.

What are my deep desires right now? Would Lent be a good season in which to pray those desires? Our truest desires are usually God’s desires speaking in us. But true desires can become hidden under layers of false desires or superficial wants. Lent can give us the opportunity to focus on desires and talk with God about them, to learn where our deep desire meets God’s purposes for our life and the world.

In what area of my life am I experiencing a lack of spiritual freedom? Where am I clinging to something or trying to force an outcome? In what area has fear or pride or simple ego compelled my thoughts, words, and actions? Dealing forthrightly with unfreedom can be quite an effective form of penance, because we are admitting where we have gone off course, we spend time in prayer identifying why we are not free, and we seek to renew our trust in God and thus loosen our grip on a specific area of life.

How am I participating in God’s kingdom? How am I working with Christ, following the direction of the Holy Spirit, and helping fulfill the Creator’s dream for this world? Lent can be the perfect time to “praydream,” as Jesuit Mark E. Thibodeaux puts it. Daydream prayerfully about how your circumstances, opportunities, interests, and gifts can better contribute to God’s kingdom on earth.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash.


Explore Lenten prayer ideas inspired by Ignatian spirituality.

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Vinita Hampton Wright
Vinita Hampton Wright edited books for 32 years, retiring in 2021. She has written various fiction and non-fiction books, including the novel Dwelling Places and spirituality books Days of Deepening Friendship, The Art of Spiritual Writing, Small Simple Ways: An Ignatian Daybook for Healthy Spiritual Living, and, most recently, Set the World on Fire: A 4-Week Personal Retreat with the Female Doctors of the Church. Vinita is a spiritual director and continues to facilitate retreats and write fiction and nonfiction. She lives with her husband, two dogs, and a cat in Springdale, Arkansas.

7 COMMENTS

  1. I’m trying not to mark each day as ‘good’ or ‘not so good’ and just trust that God will find me and renew my spirit and my life however He wishes!!!!!!

  2. Lent and the Spirit guided Him into the desert Matt 1:1 at times when I’m at my lowest is the Spirit leading me into the desert..my human experience..for each time – I face desolation, my faith is renewed. At those times, I now go thru them knowing that there’s a renewal to pray thru them. So much of my readings in the Ignation Adventure makes me ponder. Jesus was weak in spirit. What Jesus was spiritually weak, the horror, continue reading the difference between me and Jesus – He was man but totally relied on His father, so in my spiritual weakness I remember tho Jesus was spiritually weak – I can do the same rely on the Father, for I am human just like He was. My journey thru Lent – will be lead by the Spirit, one day at a time. For who knows what tomorrow will bring. I will spend time comtemplating Jesus and His mighty yes..

  3. Thank you for this. I have been flip flopping on what to do for Lent this year. Last year I went to daily morning mass. This year I want to pray with less formal structure, if you know what I mean. I haven’t decided yet. I’m waiting on the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

  4. Vinita,
    I give thanks for you and will offer prayer for your intentions during Lent. When I opened this email and saw it was your writing, I knew there would be ideas to ponder with prayer. Last week our 26 year old daughter experienced an emotional collapse, was separated from her newly hard earned job, and I left job/home to be with her. I have thought to myself Lent came early. The story is long, sad and yet my sister with whom I have been estranged for 10+years has reached out each day – as if serving as spiritual companion. Offering prayer, words of kindness but most of all love. Our daughter, a capable young women filled with potential, has perhaps encountered her cannonball to contemplate life’s direction. Ego as a parent seems to be an area for me to contemplate and your plan offers outline to listen, to pray and to discern the good and bad spirits this Lent. Please forgive my personal saga but your email opened just after I received the message that our daughter arrived to her center for care. We drove early this morning to the airport for departure, and she has finally arrived. No personal contact until the center permits. The last text shared moments ago between my husband, daughter and I perhaps most important to say, “I love you.” Thank you for the wisdom you so generously share.

    • Susan, I fell behind reading responses and just read yours today. I pray peace and good expectation for you and your family. Sometimes we don’t need a “practice” for Lent because life is practice enough.
      Thanks for writing on the site.

  5. Thanks Vinita. I found a small book at church called “Discovering Prayer”: a 30 day prayer journey. We are never ‘experienced’ enough at prayer not to rediscover the beauty of our conversation with God. So, this will be my main focus at Lent. I will also be doing more walking in nature, something I love very much. There’s a walking path near my home which leads through a beautiful landscape and I am always grateful to be part of that landscape.

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