Lenten Struggles? Try, Try Again
By Penny Wiegert
We all know Lent is time for prayer, fasting and almsgiving. It is also a time to give more focused thought to these penitential acts of the season and their purpose.
I have to say that I find the easiest part of this trifecta is almsgiving. Giving, sharing and ‘doing’ seems to be part of the culture for most women in the Church. I don’t know of any Catholic parish that doesn’t have some active women working behind the scenes to help the parish and community and folks in need. 
And every other faith denomination can say the same. Almsgiving is a part of the fabric that helps weave the life of a church together. 
A little tougher are prayer and fasting.
If you are reading this, I would be willing to guess that at some time or other you have struggled with prayer. I think at times we all struggle with finding enough time to pray, finding the right prayer or the right words or finding the right focus and fighting off distraction.
Then there is the issue of doubt. 
A group of women at our parish gathered for our regular meeting and offered our prayers as we always do both before and after our meeting. We prayed especially for some members of our parish who were ill, asking for their restoration to health. 
We found out the next day that those prayers were not answered. One person did not get well and was called home to God. It was very sad to hear the news especially when all of us prayed so solemnly and with such concern. I must admit I felt a little deflated and started to wonder about all that power of prayer stuff. What do you do when your prayers aren’t answered?
The answer is simple. Pray some more. I even had a little reminder from my coffee cup that is etched with Thessalonians 5:17 — “Pray without ceasing.” I also had to remind myself of all the instruction our good priests give us during their Lenten homilies and in the Lenten reflections found right here in The Observer. 
We are taught that our prayers are always answered but not always in the way we want or expect. God knows what we need and when we need it. And we know that God wants us to pray so that he knows we are people of faith as described in the parable in Luke 18:1-8. We don’t pray to get what we want, we pray to get to God. 
So the answer for the faithful is to pray, pray again and pray some more. That’s our task whether it’s Lent or not. It’s a challenge but if we use that same response mechanism we have for almsgiving, then prayer too can be second nature.
Then there is fasting. Giving up something is always difficult, whether it’s food or a certain habitual behavior. It’s good for us. One of the first examples of this is when God asked Adam to fast — remember? Adam could eat of any tree except for one. Well, we know how that turned out.
And here we are thousands of years on from creation and we share the same struggle as Adam. Fasting isn’t about dieting or pride. Fasting gives us balance and an armour for protection against temptation and sin. It gives us perspective and, like prayer, helps us get to God who is our very center. 
One of our readers pointed out the irony of trying to practice fast and abstinence when our own parishes have all-you-can eat dinners during Lent. I had to laugh because it’s true. When you think about it, the rules of our faith are pretty minimal when it comes to fasting and abstinence and yet we still struggle. 
However, even with the struggles, if we try to make prayer and fasting as habitual as our good deeds and charitable activities we won’t be done in by an unanswered prayer or an all-you-can eat fish fry.
Lent is an important reminder to get to the core of ourselves and get closer to God.