Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, the forty day season of fasting and repentance in preparation for Easter. This year our focus is “Carrying Death, Manifesting Life.” As followers of Jesus, we take up our crosses to follow Jesus, always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies (2 Cor 4:10). If we want to walk in resurrection life, we must carry our cross in obedience. C. S. Lewis says, “The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbour’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken” (The Weight of Glory [New York: Touchstone, 1996], 39).
Why should we care for others like that? I only learned to pray when I began to care for others. For many years, prayer was simply a one minute ritual of rushed words before a meal. I didn’t understand what to pray for during extended prayer times. When I began to volunteer in a youth group, a pastor challenged me to pray for every student in our youth group by name every day. I dutifully wrote down every name on a notecard and prayed for each individual by name. What began as a dutiful discipline slowly changed into a Spirit-guided time of deep wrestling before God for real change in real people’s lives. As I came to face to face with my own inability to change these students hearts, prayer exposed my selfish motives and entitlement into repentance. As I became impatient with the failures of people around me, prayer turned my frustration into wrestling before God for their maturity (cf. Col 4:12). As my prayer life grew, my selfish frustration and entitlement decreased, and the life and love of Jesus Christ through me began to increase.
Last week, I shared that we begin to reach the diversity of our area as we cry out to God deliverance in the place that we are at (Ps 40:1–3). This Lent, I want to invite you to cry out to deliverance not only for your own sins but also for the needs of others around us. Let us carry a load so heavy that only humility can carry it. Why? When the flesh-slaying, impossible burden of our neighbor’s glory is laid on our back and we cry out to God in despair, it is through that frustration that the life of Christ is revealed. But our neighbor must have a name. And we must have a place of prayer. And we must contend regularly for breakthrough. This Lent, let us carry death, so that we might manifest Christ’s life. And each day throughout Lent, let us carry his death, so that we might manifest his life.