Lenten Devotional by Dr Alvin Tey


What Is Lent?

The season of Lent is the period of 40 days before Easter. The word Lent is derived from the Old English word “lencten’ meaning springtime or spring, and also from the West Germanic word “langitinaz” meaning long-days or the lengthening of the day[1]. As suggested by its root words, the season of Lent not only coincides with the season of spring in the northern hemisphere, but it also signifies a period of spiritual renewal after death or after long days in the spiritual wilderness.

Is Lent Biblical?

We will not find any specific reference to Lent in the Bible. Lent (just like Christmas) has its origins in early European pagan cultures. The early Church appropriated (and arguably contextualized) these pagan festivals after the Christianization of the pagan peoples. In the case of Lent, the early Church decided to call the pagan spring festivals “quadragesuma” meaning 40 days[2]. In the centuries that followed, Lent took on additional rituals associated with the Roman Catholic Church in different countries. These included mandatory fasts and vigils, and the eating of symbolic foods when not fasting, such as and pretzels, rodents(!) and eels(!)[3]. The Protestant Reformers rightly frowned upon such practices and looked upon them as folk superstitions. Specifically, they see these practices as seeking to gain merit through atonement of sins by self-effort. Even today, some Protestants do not observe Lent and look upon it with suspicion[4].

Reclaiming The Spiritual Significance Of Lent

How then should followers of Jesus approach the season of Lent? I suggest that Lent’s spiritual significance has always been the opportunity for us to engage deeper with God and our spiritual selves. Lent gives us an ideal opportunity to walk closely with Jesus as He goes to the cross, and to remind us again of the significance of Jesus’ death and subsequent resurrection. During Lent, I suggest that the main focus is first on drawing closer to God through a deeper experience and appreciation of His love in all its dimensions, and leading to our responding to Him in deeper love.

With the above in mind, one way which we can engage deeper with God and ourselves during Lent is to read and reflect on the Bible meditatively, rather than reading it exegetically. This means that we focus on what the Holy Spirit may be seeking to impress upon us through certain words or phrases in the Bible passage, rather than (just) seeking to understand the correct context and meaning of the passage. This way of reading and reflecting on the Bible passage meditatively is also called Lectio Divina[5]. In keeping with the spiritual themes of repentance, death and renewal during Lent, you may wish to reflect upon:

Personal Sin And Repentance

Jesus Christ willingly went to be crucified at the cross during Good Friday to be the atoning sacrifice for the sin of humankind, including your (and my) sin. What does this mean for you personally? What are the sins which have held (or continue to hold) you in bondage which God is inviting you to release to Jesus and the cross? (Suggested passages to meditate on: Psalm 51, 1 John 1:5-2:6)

Pain, Hurt And Forgiveness

During Lent, we become acutely aware that we live in a sinful and fallen world. Lent is a good time to acknowledge and process with God the hurt, pain, rejection, humiliation and betrayal that we may have suffered. Jesus is able to amply empathize as He suffered all of the above in a way which we can only imagine. Again, what are the pains and hurts you carry which God is inviting you to release to Jesus and the cross? (Suggested passages to meditate on: Isaiah 53, Psalm 73)

Facing Your Personal Cross

Just as Jesus knew the torture and pain that faced Him at the cross, perhaps you are struggling with the unwelcome prospect of a coming trial or difficult situation. Jesus struggled mightily at the Garden of Gethsemane before submitting Himself to the will of God. Is there a trial or difficult situation which you know you are going to face, and which you need His grace to carry you through? (Suggested passages to meditate on: Genesis 32:22-31, Matthew 26:36-46, )

New Season & Commitment

Lent does not end with Jesus’ death on Good Friday. It culminates with Jesus’ victory and resurrection on Easter Sunday. Perhaps you are just stepping out of a difficult trial, a period of spiritual refining by fire, a dark night of the soul. What is the new season or task which God is calling you to? Are you willing to commit and obey His invitation and call? (Suggested passages to meditate on: John 21:15-19, Philippians 3:1-16)


In recent years, I have found Lent to be the most spiritually difficult but meaningful time of the year for me. Difficult because I am brought to confront my spiritual darkness in the wilderness. Meaningful because God seeks to lead me to renewal and new life. I end with a quote by Henri Nouwen. May this be true for all of us this Lent.

Lent is the most important time of the year to nurture our inner life. It is the time during which we not only prepare ourselves to celebrate the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus, but also the death and resurrection that constantly takes place within us. Life is a continuing process of the death of the old and familiar and being reborn again into a new hope, a new trust and a new love.[6]


The above Lenten devotional is written by EAST Resident Faculty, Dr Alvin Tey.

If a guided Lenten daily devotional is needed, please visit Cru for their 40-day “From Ashes to the Resurrection: Cru Lent Devotional.” Shalom.



[1] Silver, S.S., “Meaning of Lent and Ash Wednesday,” Early Church History, accessed February 23, 2024, https://earlychurchhistory.org/politics/meaning-of-lent-ash-wednesday/

[2] Ibid.

[3] Waxman, O.B., “From pinatas to eating muskrat: Here are the surprising origins of 5 Lenten traditions,” Time online, accessed February 23, 2024, https://time.com/6256184/lent-traditions-origins/

[4] Wax, T., “Evangelicals embracing (and rejecting) Lent,” The Gospel Coalition, accessed February 23, 2024, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevin-wax/evangelicals-embracing-and-rejecting-lent/

[5] “What is Lectio Divina?” Anglican Communion, accessed February 23, 2024, https://www.anglicancommunion.org/media/253799/1-What-is-Lectio-Divina.pdf

[6] Henri J.M. Nouwen, Show me the way: Readings for each day of Lent (Chestnut Ridge: Crossroad, 1994).


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