How My Time in Prague Shaped My View of Lent and Why it Matters
Prague: What We Did
My mission trip to Prague is to this day one of the most significant experiences of my life. For five weeks, I, with eight other people prayed every day, did a bible study together, and befriended Czechs who were fun, interesting, completely generous and totally atheist.
It is one thing to be in a cool European city on vacation; it is another to be there on the schedule of your mission leader with the goal if introducing people to a Jesus they initially don’t want.
Coming back to the states, I wondered why at times the trip was so internally difficult. I wasn’t in a third world country and I did get to see some pretty cool places. I made some great friends, so why the struggle? There were so many mornings that I did not want to participate. Often, I did not want to follow the direction of our leaders. Many days, I just wanted to be in America. After some post-mission reflection, I realized that during those five weeks, the Lord had created a dessert experience within me.
Let me explain.
The Fruits of a Desert Experience
My time in Prague placed me in an environment void of my many comforts. I didn’t know the group well but they all knew each other. I was the only person with a Catholic background. Even though I didn’t care about Catholicism at the time, I did notice the lack of common experience. I could not make my own schedule. I had to do things that were uncomfortable. I didn’t have my own computer (literally a first world problem). We had personal prayer every morning where God would reveal to me the small deceits of my heart, not fun. And to top it all off, we were in a foreign culture with a foreign language.
God took me to Prague to strip me of all to which I clung so much so that I was forced to cling to Him. The void had to be filled and so I filled it with God. It was there that I truly got to know Him. I learned His word and His goodness. In the desert, I learned how much He loved me and how much I truly didn’t deserve it. He showed me what it means to live completely for Him. It was there that I realized that the only way to follow Jesus is all the way. He is very clear about that.
Connections to Lent
My time in Prague actually taught me the true purpose of Lent. It is more than a religious cultural season. These 40 days that stand before us are a season in which we are invited create for ourselves a desert experience. What attachments keep us from truly becoming disciples? What insignificant things would make us uncomfortable if they were not there? The point of sacrificing something for Lent is that the change in our environment forces a change in our focus from ourselves and our desires to God and His desires.
That is what Jesus did. He prayed and fasted for 40 days so that He would be filled God the Father. We imitated what Jesus did so that we can be more like him.
Making It Count
This Lent, I ask you, have you ever used this season to truly create for yourself an experience in which your struggle apart from your attachments will lead you to God? If you haven’t, no big deal. Here are three very simple steps to help you.
1. Sacrifice Something. Stick to it.
2. Fill that sacrifice with prayer, scripture, and the sacraments.
3. Become Generous. Give more than you want to
I cannot say that I have knocked my Lenten experiences out of the park every year since my mission trip to Prague but with God’s grace, this Lent can be my most transformative yet and it can be yours too.