This Lenten season, Bishop Wilson, along with members of the Offices of Clergy and Congregational Excellence and some friends, are inviting the people of the Great Plains Conference and beyond to pay attention to God’s Voice

The Lenten Season is one in which the Church is invited to remember our human frailty—“from dust we are to dust we will return.” We enter this season with the conviction that in 6 and a half weeks, we will join with believers around the world celebrating together the Hope of the Resurrection. Those 40 days, plus Sundays, can be an important time in which we encounter God is a different way. For 2023, the Great Plains UMC is invited to “pay attention” to how God is speaking to us.

Our attention is a priceless and limited resource that determines where we end up. There are many reasons that we don’t pay attention…busyness, activities, preoccupation, noise. Sometimes our lack of paying attention is akin to the boy Samuel who heard God’s voice, but was unable to recognize it was God speaking until his mentor, Eli instructed him to say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3). Like Samuel, there are invitations all around us to pay attention to what God may want to say to us: invitations to say a word of encouragement, to stop criticizing, to offer tangible acts of mercy, to boldly attest to the Love of Christ, to be silent, to speak a prophetic word.

Our Lenten Journey this year will include a weekly theme that invites us to pay attention to God’s Voice in an intentional way. We’ll do that through a weekly video reflection, an invitation to engage with a spiritual practice for the week, as well as reading the Daily Devotion Lectionary Texts. You are invited to engage with this on a weekly or daily basis by yourself, with a friend or family member, or with your Sunday School class or a small group from your church. May we all lean in during this season and say, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”

Subscribe to our Daily Devotions to receive a Lenten reflection in your inbox each morning.

Catch up on any Daily Devotion you may have missed here.

Weekly themes:

  • Ash Wednesday — Repentance
  • First Sunday, Feb. 26 — Humility
  • Second Sunday, March 5 — Fasting
  • Third Sunday, March 12 — Prayer 
  • Fourth Sunday, Mar 19 — Listening 
  • Fifth Sunday, March 26 — Discernment 
  • Sixth Sunday, Palm Sunday, April 2 — Commitment  
  • Seventh Sunday, Easter, April 9 — Worshiping

Easter Sunday

Sixth Sunday: Commitment

Commitment, at its core, is about being dedicated to a cause or an activity, about setting an intention to do something. To be committed to something does not mean we will be perfect, it does not mean it will always be easy, but to be committed is to state our intention to make something a priority and to continue growing in our pursuit of that thing. As we grow in love of God and neighbor, we are invited to increasingly live lives of commitment. We commit to grow in love of God. We commit to grow in love of neighbor. We commit to spiritual practices that form us in Christ’s likeness. We commit to receiving God’s forgiveness when we make mistakes. We commit to extending grace to others when they let us down. We commit to joining with Jesus in praying that God’s will is done, on earth as it is in heaven. In all of this, the spiritual practice of commitment allows us to listen more attentively for and to hear God’s invitations in our lives.

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Fifth Sunday: Discernment

“To come into silence is to come into the presence of the Divine.” (John O’Donohue). The Spiritual Discipline of Discernment calls us into the presence of the Divine. During the Lenten Season, we follow the steps of Jesus into the wilderness as we wander around in the barren land. We open our souls (discernment) to hear from Him during these days and hours of self - examination and repentance. We lean into discerning the Words we hear and how we will live as Resurrection people each and every day.

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Fourth Sunday: Listening

This week take moments to actively listen to God through Scripture, others, and the world around you. Begin each day with a listening posture with a deep desire to hear people. Be especially attentive to the ways you can listen to others with depth and seeing the Holy Spirit in each person. Listen more than you talk this week.

Hear how God is speaking to you in this week. Listen to your body and soul this week. In a world of pain, grief, and heartache, listen to God’s comfort and care. Be present to yourself and then to others.

Hear God’s words through the Scriptures. The psalms are the songs, prayers, and hymnbook, naming how people have listened to God for thousands of years. The poet calls out to God remind us of who God is. We join with millions of people of faith throughout the centuries, repeating these words and listening to God’s guidance each day.

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Third Sunday: Prayer

Prayer is at the heart of Christianity. Prayer is connecting to God, showing our heart. Prayer is also listening, listening, listening. There is no one right way to do it. What we have found is that the more we pour out our heart to God, the more connected we are to God. The more connected we are to God, the more strength we have to pray. Sometimes our prayers are intimate. Sometimes our prayers are universal. Sometimes they are coherent and sometimes discombobulated. Sometimes we are silent. Each of these have ways that connect us to God who is both intimate and universal, who cares enough to have created each of us and also created the universe.

There have also been times when we could not pray, we did not know how to pray, we did not know what to pray, or how to even begin. It is in these times especially that we give God thanks for people who have come alongside us to be a prayer advocate.

Prayer in its many forms is vehicle for mutual communication with God. Not only talking to God but also sensing where ... when ... how God is speaking and what is God saying. As with Elijah on 1 Kings 19:11-13 ... often God is in the thin silence ... a still small voice.

Bonus faith practice: Prayer Advocate

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Second Sunday: Fasting

Discipline isn’t necessarily something to which we naturally gravitate, but when we’re serious about becoming disciples of Jesus, it’s an essential part of the Christian life. This week we’ll take a look at the spiritual discipline of fasting and consider how intentionally limiting something that’s good (food, technology, or something else) cultivates discipline that helps us pay closer attention to God’s voice, individually and in a community.

Life isn’t found in calories, vitamins, or nutrients, though those things sustain it. Rather, life is found in submitting our lives to God, in taking on the life of Christ, and in putting one foot after another, day after day. You are invited to practice cultivating communion with God even in the intentional denial of something that is good.

Bonus faith practice: Spiritual Discipline for Fasting and Prayer

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First Sunday: Humility

Humility is freeing ourselves from the false wisdom of arrogance and pride and emerges when our heart becomes pliable to the presence and righteousness of God. 

The season of Lent is a time of deep self-examination and true acknowledgement of what we are willing to put aside to fully embrace and embody our God. Humility is not an automatic response for us. It is challenging for us to turn away from the urging of our inner desires and to put ourselves aside in the interest of God and others; however, God gives us the power of the Holy Spirit to do so.  

If we are humble enough to obediently submit and surrender to God, we experience restoration, and our lives are beautifully transformed. We become more peaceful, more loving, and more giving and forgiving. Through the presence of humility, we develop hearts of gratitude and we become more self-aware of who we are in Christ.

Through the presence of humility, our choices remove us more and more from the urgings of the world and draw us nearer and closer to God.

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Ash Wednesday: Repentance

This Lenten season, Bishop David Wilson, along with some conference staff and members of the laity, are inviting the people of the Great Plains Conference and beyond to “Pay Attention to God’s Voice” during this season of Lent. The theme for this week is Repentance.

Repentance is a word we often use in the church, but what does it mean? In many ways, it stands for restoration of relationship — with others, with God, even with ourselves.

And it’s a process.

Jesus had nothing from which he had to repent, but he showed mercy to his executioners by asking God to forgive them even as the Son of God hung on the cross. Luckily, none of us face such torture, but we are, indeed, called to repent.

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