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How Closely Do You Need To Follow the Disciplines of Lent?
How Closely Do You Need To Follow the Disciplines of Lent?

"Lord, you have probed me, you know me: you know when I sit and stand; you understand my thoughts from afar." (Psalm 139:1-2)

Stephen Zepp avatar
Written by Stephen Zepp
Updated over a week ago

Question: How closely do you need to follow the disciplines of Lent?

Answer: "Do whatever he tells you" John 2:5

If you are reading this article, you likely want to help discern how to live out specific disciplines during an Exodus spiritual exercise.

The ascetic disciplines are not a list of ways to make your life miserable—they are a roadmap to uncommon freedom. As you embrace the life of prayer, asceticism, and fraternity, take the example of the early Christian Church in Jerusalem. In this community, “Each does what he can, nor is he praised who has done much, nor is he blamed who has done less” (Egeria’s Travels, c. 380 AD).

Getting Practical

Discerning how you will follow God's will is not a science—there is no formula for figuring out exactly how the Lord is calling you to freedom. However, there is one question that is particularly helpful as you make this discernment: What's your intention?

Why do you want to go to the church movie night? Why do you want to put syrup on your pancakes? Why do what to do whatever it is that led you to this article?

Do you want to do X because it is easier, because you deserve it, or maybe because you just need to get your fix? Or do you want to do it because it will bring your family together, it will be polite, or it will help you grow stronger?

Here is our practical guide for discerning how to follow the disciplines of Exodus:

The Discernment Guide

  1. Consider the circumstances around your question.

  2. Clearly articulate your question.

  3. Be honest with yourself about why you are asking this question. What is your intention?

  4. Take it to prayer. Ask the Lord:

    1. Whether your intention aligns with the lifestyle of uncommon freedom.

    2. How this decision relates to your why.

    3. If he has drawn your attention to this because he is asking you to make a sacrifice.

  5. If your time in prayer does not leave you at peace about your decision, bring this question up to your fraternity spiritual director (if you have one) or to your fraternity for further advice.

  6. Consider whether you should share this discernment with your fraternity or your anchor.

  7. "Do whatever he tells you" (John 2:5).

Whatever the result, know that God, the all-good Father, always has your best interest in mind. It may not feel like it in the moment, but he knows and sees far more than we ever will. Trust in his goodness. 

Do Whatever He tells You Stickers


Do I abstain if I'm offered something when I am a guest?

When you are guest, it is important to be a gracious guest. At the same time, having the resolve to uphold a commitment is a good thing. Can you have steak on a Wednesday if it is offered to you? The answer may be yes, within reason. When it's not insulting to pass on something, do it. But yes, if you are at a dinner with your grandma and she made steak on a Friday just the way you like it, please eat the steak.

⚠️ Watch out for Pride
Never should your passing on something purposely be a means of drawing attention to yourself.

“But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you." (Matthew 6:17-18)

Do I have to alienate myself from friends when they are watching TV?

What does he have in store for you that is better than watching television with friends?

If God is calling you to abstain from television, he has something better for you.

Can I listen to podcasts, audiobooks, or Christian media?

Even good things can be a distraction from God. Allow the Lord more windows of silence to speak to you throughout the day. Allow yourself more opportunities to engage your family, your work, and your surroundings in a fuller way.

What if you are in a bible study that meets weekly and is video based? Yes, you may participate in this communal activity if you are doing it with proper intention. Going just to watch a video, would not be proper intention.

Can I relax a disciplined if I am on a date?

Short answer: sometimes. The disciplines are meant to be purifying for you and beneficial for your wife—ultimately, they should be freeing for both of you. Though they may generate some inconvenience for her, they should not make her miserable. It is you who is choosing to take up this spiritual exercise, not her. If she asks you to drink a glass of wine when you are taking her on a date, drink wine.

Have more questions about the disciplines?

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