Writing as someone who used to be absolutely terrified of speaking in public spaces, Lent this year has involved a bit of a challenge for me. Why? Because during Lent, I attended and presented a paper at an international conference of politics students. In the weeks leading up to the event, I was excited but also very nervous, and of course anxious to be sufficiently prepared for both the event itself and getting there – the conference was taking place in Budapest, Hungary and until now, I’d never travelled abroad on my own!
In hindsight, there wasn’t much to be worried about, and both the travelling and the conference went very well. However, as a somewhat inherently anxious person, the whole process was a struggle. A worthwhile struggle, but a struggle nonetheless. Yet I found comfort and calm in an ongoing process I had participated in for the most part of my life: prayer.
Over the past month, I have prayed a lot and I have prayed often. Not solely regarding my own journey and safety, but also for people I care about and situations which are in dire need of a helping hand. This is not the first time I’ve prayed. It may have been, however, one of the few times where I have properly engaged in prayer, and thus, have felt the power of prayer to a greater extent.
Lent is many things, with one major aspect of it being a time of spiritual reflection. So, it seems rather appropriate to me that during this time, the power of prayer was – in a certain way – revealed to me. As it is written in Philippians 4:6-7:
‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’.
Of course, Lent isn’t only about prayer; but neither is it solely about one particular thing. It can be a time of reflection; a time of action; a time of renewal. As well as engaging in prayer, I tried to follow the 40acts campaign too. This also proved a challenge, involving stepping out of my well-defined comfort zone and into uncomfortable but worthwhile situations. Fundamentally, that’s what I feel Lent has been about this year – the challenge. Whether that be the challenge of prayer or practical action, God asks us to take up the challenge.
Through whatever challenges we may face, we can take solace in the fact that, as stated in Romans 8:18, ‘our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us’.
Written by Nathan Olsen, member of SCM Leeds and currently studying for a BA in Politics.