Throughout biblical history we see 40 days of testing, waiting and drawing closer to God. Ash Wednesday and Lent typically mark a spiritual quest for Christians, though it’s often recognized as a Catholic tradition. It’s a time of prayer, service, sacrifice and self-examination. Look beyond the face of religion and into the heart …and see if God is calling you for the next 40 days. Does He want your attention and your heart focused on Him?
Forty-day spiritual journeys are well known in the Bible. In Genesis 7 Noah spent 40 days and nights on a boat while God destroyed everything he had created. In Exodus 34 Moses was on the mountain with God 40 days without eating bread or drinking water, while God wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments. In Exodus 16:35 the Israelites ate manna 40 days until they arrived in the promised land. They then suffered 40 years in the wilderness for disobeying God. In Deut 2:7 we’re reminded “The LORD your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast wilderness. These forty years the LORD your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything. ”
Jesus was called by God and immediately a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. Mark 1:11-13 NIV
Below are some ideas about spending 40 days with God.
Fasting 40 Days
Luxuries- One year during Lent, my husband and I decided to give up (fast from) all luxury expenses. Since we use budgeting software, we were able to look at 12 months of luxury expenses (pizza, movies, coffee drinks, dining out, etc) and estimate the daily cost. We multiplied the cost by 40 days and then gave up these luxuries with a promise to God to give the money saved to charity. In the final two weeks my husband lost his job and we were tempted to keep the money. By faith, we donated the money and trusted God with our finances. By blessing others we were blessed by God. We learned how to live on less and continued to give up luxuries until he found new employment. It was truly amazing!
Food- Another year, we practiced traditional fasting by giving up specific foods or eating at specific times of the day. You can learn more about this in the popular book Fasting (Book with DVD): Opening the door to a deeper, more intimate, more powerful relationship with God by Jentezen Franklin. The concept is refraining from food for a spiritual purpose. One word of caution when fasting: watch your blood sugar! I ended up hospitalized after 40 days of liquids until 5pm and light meals in the evening. Know your threshold and guard your health.
Events- My children are making decisions about their own level of participation. They might fast from television, texting, Facebook or specific foods such as sweets, pizza or fast food.
40 Days of Prayer
Devotionals- Now is a good time to start reading a devotional and praying each day. One of the popular devotionals is Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence by Sarah Young, where each day you read a sample of what Jesus might write to you. The Life Application Study Bible Devotional: Daily Wisdom from the Life of Jesus (Bible NLT) is more scripture based and focuses on Jesus’ life as seen through scripture.
Psalms- Pick up your bible and pray through the Psalms each day or read the book Psalms for Praying: An Invitation to Wholeness by Nan C Merrill. As you read the verses, focus your mind on how you can apply the verses to your life today. Select a few favorites and memorize them.
Prayer Walk- Each day when you exercise (or just driving the car to work and carpool) go on a “prayer walk.” Notice your surroundings and pray for those people around you. Pray for your neighbors as you walk past their homes, pray for the person parked at the stoplight beside you, pray for those people in your path. Read the book PrayerWalk: Becoming a Woman of Prayer, Strength, and Discipline by Janet Holm McHenry.
Body Prayer- During the next 40 days, pray through your body. Start at your feet and toes and pray something similar to this “Lord, examine my toes and feet. Search for anything that is not pleasing to you, find anything that is toxic and does not honor you. Wash over my feet and toes with the blood of Jesus and allow my feet and toes to honor Him.” Repeat for each body part, from toes to head as you lie in bed and prepare to fall asleep.
Read-The Purpose Driven Life (QR Code Enhanced Edition): What on Earth Am I Here For? by Rick Warren. The book has 40 chapters and is designed to be read one chapter, one day at a time for 40 days.
Memorize Scripture- Get some index cards and write out scripture verses to memorize.
Pray For a Child- If you are a parent or grandparent, pray for your children each day for the next 40 days. Pray for your nieces and nephews. If you sponsor a child through Compassion International, Gospel of Asia or World Vision then spend the next 40 days praying for your child. Pray for children who are waiting to be adopted. For the next 40 days, find children you can pray for.
Pray For a Relationship- Pray for your spouse, friend, boyfriend or a relationship. Focus each day on the same person and spend 40 days covering this person with your prayers.
Pray for Your Coworkers- Print a copy of the company directory or write a few names down on paper and pray for these people during the next 40 days. Pray for them to know Jesus, for peace and hope in their lives and for God to reveal Himself to them. Pray with expectation for goodness, peace, joy and hope in their lives.
40 Days of Praise
Worship Music– Change the radio station in your car or on your computer to Christian music and listen exclusively for the next 40 days. Scan YouTube for Christian songs and save your favorites in your profile. Richard of www.Tworship.com writes “Praise and worship are contrasted with attachments to or pursuits of things honored by the world. Jesus rebuked Satan’s offer for power and beauty (Luke 4:5) by quoting Deuteronomy 6:13:“It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”
Journal- Get a fresh notebook and journal your gratitude to God. Read the popular book One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp and make a decision to start noticing the gifts God has bestowed upon you. This is especially wise if you are under a cloud of unemployment, financial worries, health problems or relationship troubles. Count your blessings for the next 40 days. One of my favorite journals is The Footprints Journal, Premiere Collectionwith beautiful quotes and pages to reflect upon.
Listening – Life Coach Bridget Haymond says “When I think of sacrificing 40 days, I think about dedicated time spent in prayer and reading my Bible. With so many things vying for your attention, time spent focusing your mind and silencing your racing thoughts is a discipline and a sacrifice. It’s truly an exercise in self-control to put aside your own opinions, ideas, agendas and to-do lists in order to truly focus on listening to what God wants to speak to your heart about. The modern day routine rarely values the discipline of a contemplative lifestyle. However, clearing your mind and waiting patiently for insight, direction and fellowship with the Heavenly Father is equivalent to what Jesus did regularly. What you choose to give up in order to spend focused time listening is up to you. It could be the time you normally spend reading a magazine, watching television or going on your favorite social media site, but whatever you exchange for time spent listening will be well worth it. I have always come away refreshed, encouraged and blessed by my times of waiting and listening.”
Beauty Treatments- When is the last time you used your body as praise to God? Created in His image…when you look in the mirror do you see the child He loves or something less beautiful in your own eyes? Explore opportunities to honor your body and treat yourself as a son or daughter of the King. What would you eat as His child? How would you dress? What would you do to maintain the body He created for you? Put this thought into your heart, pray over it and see if you need “40 days of beauty treatments” in the name of the Lord. Get a copy of the book His Princess: Love Letters from Your King by Sheri Rose Shepherd and remind yourself daily that you are His.
40 Days of Giving
Giving Your Gifts- Marie at Spreading Joy is an expert at giving and says this: “Knowing each gift given, regardless of size, has a limitless effect on the recipient, we choose to simply give. We are tempted to compare our gifts to what others are doing, where they are making their gifts to and the size of them, but when you step back and look at what Jesus did, you’ll realize that is where the comparison needs to be made. Jesus simply gave what He had. He saw the need and stepped in to meet it. We see needs we can meet often, but because we can’t meet them all, sometimes we’ll choose not to do anything. Give what you can – where you can, as making a difference for just one person is exactly Jesus did. Give without comparison and give in love. ”
Cooking- If you are making a family meal, double the batch of spaghetti, soup, stew or lasagna. Package this with a loaf of bread and deliver it to your neighbors, family member or a coworker. Use the element of surprise and make their day special when you bring an unexpected meal. Make a batch of cookies, brownies or cupcakes and each day during the week find someone you can share them with.
Giving Your Time- Spend 40 days giving your time and attention to your friend, spouse, children or family members. Pull yourself away from Facebook and social media, from the distractions of the television or internet…and center your time on someone else. Make a list with the number 1-40 and each day write a name of someone you are going to give time to. You can make a phone call, send an email, mail a card, or visit in person. Take the focus off yourself and your needs and give time to someone else.
These are just a few ideas to start you thinking about your own 40-day spiritual journey. Pastor Mike at A Heart For God says “Lent is the season (between Ash Wednesday and Holy Saturday) where Catholics prepare for Easter. Many do it by giving up things. As a former Catholic who holds dear his Catholic heritage (after all, I gave my heart and life to Jesus as a Catholic), I’ve wondered about the practice of “Lent” in this way. If we would surrender certain things during the season prior to Easter, why not surrender them entirely the whole year through?”
The decision to spend 40 days focused on God is yours alone. Pray over this and see if you are led to do something or possibly wait for another time. Know that during your 40 days with God you will attract the attention of the enemy and he will throw flaming arrows your way. Stand firm with the shield of faith and keep your eyes and heart on God.
Related Articles on Fasting and Lent
Christians Tailor Lent Outside Catholic Traditions -Christian Post
We’d like to hear your ideas. Post a comment below and share your ideas for a 40 day journey.