This article was originally published on quora.com as an answer to the question “How can I observe Lent this year.”
Lent is a time of prayer, fasting, and alms-giving in preparation for the passion and resurrection of Christ. So, when we think of how to observe Lent, we should think of how to best prepare ourselves for the Paschal Mystery.
Prayer brings us closer to God and strengthens our relationship with Him. Increasing prayer during Lent can be a practice that stays with us long after Easter. This doesn’t mean we have to spend hours on our knees at an adoration chapel (though it would be nice to have such an opportunity). Perhaps one decade of a rosary every morning on the way to work, or Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours would be a suitable step up for the Lenten season. Daily Mass is an excellent way to improve prayer life, too, if schedule allows.
Fasting is an exercise that empties us of worldly things that we may fill ourselves with Christ upon His resurrection. It is also a practice of discipline, the root word of “disciple.” Turning away from a beloved food or habit gives us time to focus on prayer and creates a longing which we can fill with Christ’s love. As a bonus, I tend to lose a few pounds every Lent.
Finally, alms-giving is a Lenten practice of doing for others by sharing our time, talent, and/or treasure. This is a time to donate clothing, food, money to the poor. Volunteering to work with children, the homeless, the community is a way to follow the example of Christ and better prepare us for His coming.