This Lent’s scripture gives us stories full of back-and-forth conversation with God. These conversations are filled with questions. People use questions to interrogate or to express their confusion or doubt. Questions express the longings of the heart and the puzzles of the mind. A question shows the distance between me and you. A question can also bring us closer. At times, people swallow their wonderings and fail to ask their question at all. God often asks questions to draw more near.
In this guide, you’ll find many ways to engage questions—questions from scripture and questions of your own. Each entry guides you through a few steps:
- Read: Each day zooms in on one question—just a couple of verses—from scripture. Often you will explore a single passage and its many questions over the course of the week.
- Reflect: An additional question or two is provided for your own reflection. There’s no wrong way to use these questions. Let them prompt journaling throughout the season. Talk about them with your family or roommates at the kitchen counter. Read a question in the morning, and ponder it in a quiet moment later that day.
- Pray: A brief prayer is provided in the form of a question from you to God. Find a way to pray these questions that feels genuine. At times that may mean rephrasing the questions or asking something different that’s on your heart. Leave room for answers. So often, our prayers to God are one-sided. Leave silence in your prayers this season. How might God speak to you—or not—in the silence?
- Practice: Although our Read, Reflect, and Pray sections are best suited for those in their teenage years on up through adulthood, each day also includes a practice that can be done with all ages. You may engage these as an individual, a family, or a community of friends. Most of these are something that fits in the natural course of a day, so you might read our Daily Devotional Guide in the morning to give yourself the opportunity to engage your practice throughout the day. If you read it in the evening, you might save the practice for the following day.
- Question jar: We encourage you to create and keep a question jar (or bowl, or bucket, whatever is handy!) throughout the season. Begin on Ash Wednesday by writing down at least two or three questions per household member on individual slips of paper, folding them, and putting them in the jar. These questions may be faith related—something you’ve always wondered about God, or the Bible, or what your church believes—but they don’t need to be. They could be questions about black holes, jazz, basketball, or slugs! Though we are confident that deep questions will emerge over the course of the season, the questions you write don’t all have to be existential. Children do not live with the same separation between the holy and the ordinary, the sacred and the secular, that most adults do. To them, all topics are worthy of divine attention (this is why it seems like kids bring up the most unusual topics during the children’s message portion of a service). Channel that playfulness and lack of distinction into your question jar. Though you may get to ponder some deep mysteries, the point is more to cultivate your curiosity, to wonder, to ask questions, to ponder them with others, and to seek answers when it’s appropriate. Questions help us grow in faith and in life and often lead us into deeper relationship. Your question jar questions can and should be provided by household members of all ages!
Throughout the week, keep the jar in a prominent place so you can add questions as they occur to you. On Sunday, rather than your usual devotion, spend some time with your question jar. Draw one question out of the jar. Is this a question you can answer on your own? If not, consider watching a documentary, going to the library, or getting lost in Wikipedia! Is it a question you need someone’s expertise on? Call your pastor, ask your doctor, reach out to a local educator. Is it a question that would be well pondered with others? Bring it to your Bible study group, discuss it with others in your household, make a coffee date with a friend to talk more. Each Sunday, refresh your jar with some new questions.
Give yourself some grace as you progress through the season. We have entries for every day, but if you miss one, don’t give up. Perhaps you want to sit down and read several entries at once. Maybe your family needs to read the entries separately and can only reflect on the week together each Sunday night. Do what works for you and your people.
Let these questions—those others ask of God, and those you have carried yourself—draw you closer into conversation with God and with others this Lenten season.