At Lent, clerics urge Christians to seek God’s face through genuine repentance
Christians in Nigeria and their counterparts across the globe, last week, observed Ash Wednesday with officiating priests in the orthodox churches rubbing ashes on the foreheads of their faithful as a mark of the event.
The event heralds the Christian community’s 40-day fasting and prayers that will end on April 8, followed by the Easter Celebration that will hold on April 9, 2023. Known as the Lenten Season, the event is a unique occasion in the Christian calendar.
At this period, the faithful are expected to confess their sins to God, ask for forgiveness and also to be obedient to God’s words. They are also to pray for themselves, loved ones, the church and the nation.
Speaking with The Guardian on phone about the significance of the season, especially as it coincides with the nation’s election period, Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Lagos State Chapter, Bishop Stephen Adegbite, disclosed that it is a good thing for Christians and the nation.
According to him: “It shows that God will answer our prayers because Matthew 7: 7 says that if we pray, we will receive; if we knock the door, it will open. We should be happy that we started Lent before the election period and also the Muslim community will soon begin theirs. This shows that God is going to answer our prayers.”
Describing the period as times of sobriety and repentance, the chairman said: “That is what a living faith should do. If your faith does not lead you to repentance, it is not a living faith; it is rather a dead one. The beginning of 40 days of lent started on February 22, 2023 and I urge Christians to cooperate with the Lord spiritually for the rejuvenation of our spirit. It is a season of sober reflection, and we have every reason to give glory to the name of the Lord.”
Despite current difficulties occasioned by fuel scarcity and the redesign of the Naira, Adegbite said Christians still have reasons to thank God for His intervention in our national affairs and called on Nigerians to wait upon the Lord, having voted yesterday in the presidential and national assembly elections.
He also reminded politicians to play the game by its rules and winners should be magnanimous in victory, while losers should imbibe the spirit of sportsmanship and know that in Olympics participants don’t win all the time.
Enjoining politicians to allow the will of God to be done, the cleric warned that there should be no violence during and after the elections.
The Archbishop of the Diocese of Enugu, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), His Grace, Most Reverend Emmanuel Chukwuma called on Christians to use the occasion to intensify prayers for Nigeria, so that, there will be peace in the land, especially at this period of elections, saying that God’s will for Nigeria must surely prevail.
He urged Nigerians, irrespective of their denomination to go out and vote in all the elections, according to their conscience for a better Nigeria and eschew violence, stressing that on no account should they sell their votes.
The Archbishop said: “Lent is a period when we ask God to forgive us of our sins, especially when we consider the evil things that are happening in our country, today, such as kidnapping, killings and corruption. So, it starts with confession of sins and asking God to forgive us. Ash Wednesday is significant because it reminds us that we are dust and from dust we shall return. It is a reminder to us that the soul that sinneth shall die. We are also reminded that we are going to give account of our stewardship on earth to God, especially in this election period.”
Reminding politicians vying for elective positions in the ongoing election that Nigerians have suffered enough, Chukwuma said: “We are saying that the mandate of the masses must be respected. So, it is important that we let them know that Nigerians have tolerated enough and God has been patience enough with us. Anybody or group of people planning to scuttle or manipulate the election will have him/herself to blame. Nigerians should be sincere, fair and disciplined enough to allow the will of God to be done, knowing that we have suffered enough and we need a new leaf.
“We need a new spirit and a new Nigeria, so, people should not take things for granted because of money, especially with the scarcity of new naira notes. God is watching us and we should allow God’s will to be done.”
Lamenting the borrowing habit of the Nigerian government, Chukwuma, who is also the Bishop of Enugu, cautioned against further borrowing, especially as the current administration is about to leave office. He said: “The present government should be very careful not to approve any borrowing from anywhere. We have borrowed enough and we are living in serious debts, so, we should be prepared to brace up and not to put the country in another debt, by so doing, they would have helped the incoming government in its plan. Let the will of the people be respected.”
Admonishing Christians to use the period of lent to get close to God and bear fruits of good works, which is the evidence of a good Christian, the Catholic Bishop of Oyo Diocese, Most Reverend Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo, said in the election period Christians must resist selling and buying of votes, as well as lying, thuggery and all forms of criminality.
According to him: “In Lent, we fast, not only to abstain from food and drink, but also from doing evil such as murder, cheating, lying, infidelity, stealing, hoarding, calumny, backbiting and all forms of wickedness. Lent is a 40-day season of great hope for Christians, leading to Easter; it calls for repentance, the mobilisation of all human, material, and spiritual resources to attract God’s mercy and favour on our personal lives and that of our country.”
Describing lent as, “Leave Every Negative Thing,” the Bishop of Oyo Diocese said that Christians should ask God for help during the period.
Badejo said: “By the ashes received last Wednesday, we are called to repentance, humility and love. Jesus said: ‘Repent and believe the good news.’ The focus of Christians, observing prayer and fasting, is to get close to God in love, holiness, and good works for we cannot claim to be Christians without bearing fruits of good works. Faith without works is dead (Jam. 2:20). Doing good works means living a truthful life by shunning falsehood and deceit. In Lent, we fast, not only from food and drink, but also from doing any evil.
“The three pillars of Lent; prayer, fasting and almsgiving must go together. Praying and fasting without good works is a hollow religion. Lent requires humility in recognition that God is supreme and that He will judge everybody. Christians’ conduct, during Lent should demonstrate trust in God and his word, which says: “If my people who bear my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my presence and turn from their wicked ways, then I will listen from heaven and forgive their sins and restore their country,” (2 Chron. 7:14). Beyond all human effort, we must trust God to write even on crooked lines and use anyone.”
Lent, according to him, is a national call for repentance, which is set aside by the church universal. It is a call for repentance and solemn reflection; it is a period you examine yourself and reflect on the past as a child of God and have a covenant with God to renew your life with your creator.”