Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Make a Simple Lent Chain to Promote Prayer, Fasting, and Giving and More

Are you looking for an easy way to encourage your children to pray, fast, and give each day during Lent this year while also counting down the days until Easter?

A simple Lent Chain might be the way to go!  It sure has been for us through the years. 

Every morning during Lent, my children take turns pulling down a link on our chain, reading it, and deciding if we will act on what it is written on it right away or later in the day.  Then, when we have completed whatever act of prayer, fasting, or giving was written on the link, the children put some seeds in our Pray-Fast-Give jars (another Lenten tradition of ours.) 

Better still, as the days unfold, the children find themselves putting more and more seeds in our jar, because, well, you know that old truth about a thing in motion?  Once the children begin their days with praying, fasting, and giving as prompted by our Lent Chain, they often are inspired to carry on with other acts of Lenten love throughout the day.  It's so awesome to experience.

Sacrifice and Service with Academics and Life Skills on the Side

Of course, the primary purpose of our Lent Chain is to promote sacrifice and service through living the three pillars of Lent daily.  Each time one of the children pulls a link, we come together in living Lent through prayer, fasting, or giving.  We also, however, end up with corollary learning and skill-practice as we make and use our Lent Chain.


In the days just prior to the beginning of Lent (or, some years, just after), the children and I sit down together and chat about the Lenten season: 

  • what Lent is
  • why we observe it
  • what is its liturgical colors
  • what are its pillars  

Then, I ask the children to dictate 46 ideas for praying, fasting and giving to me, which I type in a largish font on our computer.  (Why 46?  Because that way, we include the Sundays during Lent on our chain, too.) 

This brainstorming exercise ends up a bit different every year.  Always, turn-taking, reasoning, and thinking about others come into play during our Lent Chain brainstorming process, however, from year to year the mood and pace of our annual session changes. 

Some years, the children rattle off their ideas for our Lent Chain to me without hesitation or drama.  Other years, they ask me to pull up a prior year's list or to search for other people's lists to spark their own ideas.  Still other years (like this one) the children have no trouble suggesting ideas for how we might pray, fast, and give together throughout Lent, but, then, end up arguing a bit over which of their proposed ideas should actually go on our chain.  This leads to virtue/vice conversations, and, in the end, results in a list that is meaningful and mutually agreed upon.

Once our list is complete, I print it out and the children use it at their own pace as copywork.  (In the past - before the children could copy sentences well - they simply dictated ideas which I wrote on strips of paper that they had cut or glued strips of typed ideas to pre-cut strips of paper.)

One every link has a way to pray, fast, or give on it, the children help to staple or tape the strips into a chain with a white Easter link that gets hung in our living room.  (This year, we also chose to make each Sunday link white to help the children think in 7's as the chain for spontaneous math.  For, through Lent, I often find the children spontaneously adding, subtracting multiplying, dividing, and skip counting throughout Lent as the chain gets shorter and shorter and they independently figure out how many days until Easter.

The children also end up practicing life skills in relation to our Lent Chain.  For example, depending on the link they pull, they partake in:

  • cooking (when making meals for others).
  • money management (when deciding on donation amounts).
  • housekeeping (when doing extra chores).
  • virtues (when thinking and doing for others or avoiding habitual vice). 
  • time management (as the children decide when they will act on what is written on the link)

Also, as I already mentioned, the children gt in some copywork/handwriting while making the chain, basic reading practice while reading the links, early math skills while computing how many links are left,

So, as you can see, our seemingly simple Lent Chain ends up fulfilling its primary purpose of helping us to focus on praying, fasting, and giving throughout the Lenten season while also acing as a gentle learning tool.

Not bad for a simple tradition, huh?  Our Lent Chain acts as a constant reminder to pray, fast, and give in easy, every day ways,  and it also gently encourages us to practice skills and apply learning we live the Lenten season with love.

Borrow Our Pray, Fast, Give Ideas

If your children need some ideas for their own Lent Chain, feel free to let my children's ideas inspire them.  This year, they decided to:

  • Pray for (a friend who is injured)
  • Pray for (a friend with cancer and her family. 
  • Pray for (whose home burnt down) and her family. 
  • Pray for Eddie’s soul. 
  • Pray for Adrienne’s soul. 
  • Pray for Nana’s soul. 
  • Pray for (a friend who recently underwent surgery) and her family
  • Pray for (a friend's) conversion. 
  • Pray for (another friend's) conversion. 
  • Pray for (a friend's informed grandfather) and his family. 
  • Pray for all of our deceased family and friends. 
  • Pray for vocations. 
  • Pray for (a young child we know and love)
  • Pray for reparation of sins and for everyone in the world. 
  • Pray for the will to be kind others, especially to others in our family. 
  • Pray for (a local woman we are friends with)
  • Give up “fun” videos online (like Stampycat) and pray a decade instead. 
  • Fast from interrupting; wait for another person to be finished speaking before speaking. Fast from bad attitudes and do an extra chore instead.
  • Fast from snack and offer a prayer if we get hungry.
  • Fast from yelling or using loud voices inside and speak with graciousness instead. 
  • Fast from using sharp tones and smile with your voice as well as your face. 
  • Fast from Minecraft for a day (and from extra time online for Mommy) and say prayers for 45 minutes instead (in 15 minute stretches). 
  • Fast from fun and non-educational things on the computer and pray instead. 
  • Do not make mean faces at people and smile eight extra times today. 
  • Do not use your blanket for a night and pray for people who do not have blankets or beds. 
  • Fast from having lights on and pray for those who have no electricity. 
  • Fast from using whiteboards and prayer for those who don’t have learning supplies. 
  • Fast from using our stove and oven for the day and pray for those who do not have such conveniences. 
  • Fast from having the heat on all day – even the one in the bathroom – and pray for those who don’t have heat. 
  • Fast from all carbohydrates and pray for those who cannot food. 
  • Only have soups all day and pray for those with little food.
  • When someone says something unkind or yells at you say nothing in return. 
  • Don’t yell for someone in the house to come to you, but instead go find them to talk to them quietly. 
  • Fast from part of your meal that you like and give it to someone else. 
  • Take time to write and send a letter to someone. 
  • Offer extra smiles to others. 
  • Give some money to the St. Vincent de Paul box at the back of the church. 
  • Give hugs to someone who looks like they need them. 
  • Give the birds and squirrels seeds. 
  • Give someone a secret gift or letter. 
  • Make someone else’s bed for them. 
  • Give some of your money to the poor box or the offering at church. 
  • Give someone a meal. 
  • Give a call to Papa. 
  • Give a call to Grammy and Grampy. o Give a sibling or child a story they like.

In the past, our annual Lent Chain lists have tended to be similar to our Christmas Countdown ones, so, perhaps the lists found in the following posts will be helpful inspiration for you and yours, too:

Access Ready-Made Printables 

I love having my children come up with their own pray-fast-give ideas.  However, I know for some, the ease of having a free, quick, printables works best.  If that's what you need, you might pop over to:

Undoubtedly, there are many other free printable lists and cards out there with practical child-friendly ideas for the three pillars of Lent: praying, fasting, and giving.  Each has merit on its own, and, in my opinion, can be even more meaningful if used as inspiration for children to come up with their own personal pray, fast, and give ideas.  That is, if the children even need inspiration.  In my experience, some years, just an open-ended question or two sets off a stream of original and personal ideas and, other years, further prompting or inspiration is on order.

Any which way you approach a Lent Chain, the simple tradition of making and using one can enrich your Lenten journey.  If you're looking for a simple and meaningful family tradition, I encourage you to try this!

This post was shared at the 40 Days of Seeking Him Link up


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