According to Wikipedia, Lent is:
. . . a solemn religious observance in the Christian liturgical calendar that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends approximately six weeks (40 days) later on Holy Thursday, the memorial of the Lord’s supper the Thursday of Holy Week before Easter Sunday. The purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer for Easter through prayer, doing penance, mortifying the flesh, repentance of sins, almsgiving, and denial of ego. This event is observed in the Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Methodist, Moravian, Presbyterian, Oriental Orthodox, Reformed, and Roman Catholic Churches. Some Anabaptist and evangelical churches also observe the Lenten season.1
While the Bible does not give any instruction to practice or participate in Lent, many churches do. In fact, since the contemplative prayer movement has come into full swing, more and more churches are observing Lent. And, in fact, Lent is often being used as the open door to bring contemplative prayer into a church. This is largely done through the multitudes of books from religious publishers who have now become conduits for contemplative spirituality.*
Here are the titles of some books currently on the market that incorporate contemplative into Lent:
Lent and Holy Week (Bridges to Contemplative Living) by Jonathan Montaldo and Robert G Toth
Wonderous Encounters (Scriptures for Lent) by Richard Rohr
A Living Lent: A Contemplative Daily Companion for Lent & Holy Week by Peter Traben Haas
The Ignatian Workout for Lent: 40 Days of Prayer, Reflection, and Action by Tim Muldoon
A Lenten Journey – paperback: A Contemplative Devotional On the Passion and Resurrection of Christ by Bill O’Byrne
Sacred Space for Lent
40 Days, 40 Ways: A New Look at Lent by Marcellino D’Ambrosio
Lent With Evelyn Underhill
Journey to the Center: A Lenten Passage by Thomas Keating
Lent and Easter Wisdom by Henri Nouwen
The Lenten Labyrinth by Edward Hays
Lenten Reflections: From the Desert to the Resurrection by Milton Lopes
Sensing God: Learning to Meditate During Lent by Laurence Freeman
While many of these books may be from Catholic or Orthodox publishers, do not think that will keep evangelicals from reading them. As we have mentioned in other documents, Catholic mystic Richard Rohr was told by one of his publishers that his largest reading audience was young evangelical men (tomorrow’s pastors).
In addition to the contemplative books that are specifically meant for Lent, there are countless contemplative books that are not solely for Lent or may not even mention Lent but to which Lent-observing churches turn during Lent.
The ritualistic and liturgical nature of Lent observance has become a “perfect” fit for contemplative spirituality; in many cases (maybe most today), where you find Lent being observed, you will also find contemplative spirituality lurking in its shadows.
*Contemplative spirituality: A belief system that uses ancient mystical practices to induce altered states of consciousness (the silence) and is rooted in mysticism and the occult but often wrapped in Christian terminology. The premise of contemplative spirituality is pantheistic (God is all) and panentheistic (God is in all). Common terms used for this movement are “spiritual formation,” “the silence,” “the stillness,” “ancient-wisdom,” “spiritual disciplines,” and many others. During contemplative prayer, a word or phrase is repeated for several minutes with the intention of putting the mind into neutral and removing mental and other distractions. It is said that then one can hear the voice of God.
(photo from bigstockphoto.com; use with permission)