Devotional recommendations for Lent 2024

Amy Pagliarella has devotional recommendations for individuals, small groups and Jane Austen fans.

Photo by Zaini Izzuddin on Unsplash

Outlook recommendations

A Different Kind of Fast: Feeding Our True Pangs of Hunger in Lent
Christine Valters Paintner
Broadleaf Books, 237 pages | Published January 2, 2024

Christine Valters Paintner calls us to nourish ourselves with the “things that are life-giving, joy-bringing, peace-arising, purpose-revealing.” But first, we will have to create space; the liminal time of Lent is an opportunity to name and release the habits that distract us from living fully.

In a warm and invitational voice, Paintner describes a fast from excessive multitasking, rushing, false certainty and a scarcity mindset. Only then can we create room to embrace vulnerability, mystery, simplicity and God’s abundance. She never preaches. Instead, she tenderly describes the lives God wants for us, until we “discover a hunger to behold life as it is.” Only when we are ready does she introduce a weekly theme and simple practices (lectio divina, breath prayers, meditation, creative rituals and more) to encourage deeper engagement with God, Scripture and ourselves. While the reflection questions and content could be tailored to suit a small group, this is a particularly rich choice for individual reading.

Paintner respects that some of us struggle with “disordered eating,” and she clearly does not recommend that we abstain from food in harmful ways. Still, those who might be triggered by the language of fasting will find other options for Lenten devotional reading below.

Have a Beautiful, Terrible Day!
Kate Bowler
Convergent Books, 240 pages | Published January 23, 2024

Kate Bowler’s latest includes 36 devotions for the season from Ash Wednesday to Easter, as well as “Daily Meditations for the Ups, Downs, and In-Betweens.” Her “take what you need” approach is particularly inviting for those already struggling – who may not require an entire season to remind them they are mortal. She suggests that we thumb through, choosing only what speaks to us each day, whether struggling with a diagnosis, pain, regret or feeling “meh.”

Bowler, a divinity school professor, writer and podcaster, cuts through false positivity and offers honest words to remind us just how much we are beloved by God. There are numerous readings for Lent and beyond – many appropriate for opening a support group or closing a committee meeting – as well as an abundance of devotions to offer words of reassurance in our personal lives.

For small groups

Pause: Spending Lent With the Psalms
Elizabeth F. Caldwell
Westminster John Knox Press, 144 pages | Published January 2, 2024

Pause invites us to experience both “giving up” and “taking up” and this Lent, slowing down from busy lives to savor the language of the Psalms. Elizabeth Caldwell finds a fresh take on the Bible’s ancient songs and prayers by varying the translations (often the Common English Bible or NRSVue). The result is almost like lectio divina; as we contemplate the choice of a particular word or wonder about the translation, we experience God in new ways.

While Caldwell supports her interpretations of favorite Psalms with rigorous scholarship, Pause is also a work of the heart. She connects the language of the Psalms with daily life and the Lenten season, beginning with Ash Wednesday and continuing with stories of waiting, community, families, and Holy Week traditions.  She invites us to “pause with your heart,” permitting us to sit with our fears and laments, as well as our thanksgivings, as we reach out to God.

Pause is structured as a once-weekly devotional, yet there’s enough rich content to enjoy throughout the week, making it a forgiving choice for those with busy schedules who prefer to read on their own. However, it’s the leader’s guide that makes this an ideal choice for small groups – it’s user-friendly, includes a “pause” (spiritual practice), and additional activities and discussion questions that will draw participants back week after week.

Purchase here.

Hard & Holy Work: A Lenten Journey Through the Book of Exodus
Mary Alice Birdwhistell and Tyler D. Mayfield
Westminster John Knox Press, 122 pages | Published January 9, 2024

Hard and Holy Work is a biblically focused guide, connecting the personal spiritual growth of Lent with a social justice-oriented call to action. The authors lift up Exodus stories, focusing on women who circumvented the power structures in order to work for justice (Shiphrah, Puah, Miriam and Pharaoh’s daughter) as well as God’s miraculous work toward liberation (the burning bush and parting of the Red Sea).

A small group (or at least a conversation/accountability partner) is essential to making the most of this study. Each chapter includes simple practices for self-reflection that culminate in group discussion and a call to action. The authors meet us where we are; questions are open-ended and actions are not prescribed, which means that Hard and Holy Work can serve as an introduction to social justice or, for experienced advocacy groups, as a nudge to the next level of impact. Either way, the lessons will live on well beyond the season.

A literary devotional

A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 40 Days with Jane Austen
Rachel Mann
Canterbury Press, 160 pages | Published November 30, 2023

A Jane Austen Lenten devotional? I picked this one up with equal parts excitement and skepticism and found myself reading voraciously. Rachel Mann, a priest in the Church of England, draws heavily on witty quotes and characters from beloved Austen novels to create a literary devotional that is both quaint and relatable to modern life.

I have friends who eschew devotionals, as well as those who find the practice of Lent unfamiliar or possibly uncomfortable, yet (like Elizabeth Bennett) they are great readers. A Truth Universally Acknowledged is the guide I will offer them, confident it will offer a novel way into the hope of the season.

Purchase here.

Short and sweet

The Sanctuary for Lent 2024
Abigail Browka
Abingdon Pressm | Published December 5, 2023
Browka, a pastor known for offering satisfying spiritual practices (in five minutes or less!) through the Everyday Sanctuary podcast, provides a similar experience in The Sanctuary for Lent. The daily Scripture passages, brief reflections and one-line prayers emphasize the challenges of following our liberating God in a world marked by so much injustice. These inexpensive booklets can be purchased in bulk and provided to congregation members eager for a shared experience (on a budget).

Open-ended and flexible

Season of Beauty: A Lent and Easter Treasury of Readings, Poems, and Prayers
Paraclete Press, 144 pages | Published January 9, 2024

Season of Beauty is a compilation of poems, quotes from important Christian thinkers, short readings, and works of art. Editors at Paraclete Press have chosen works mostly from the Western canon, with some meaningful surprises such as a prayer from Oscar Wilde (a writer not known for his Christian faith) and a stunning Japanese print. This is a flexible choice for those who prefer not to follow a daily or weekly plan, but who seek inspiration throughout the season.

Purchase here.

Don’t forget the Outlook’s Lenten offering as well — Local pilgrim: A wandering, wondering daily devotional.

A cemetery, a bar, a library, an emergency waiting room: what do all these places have in common?

In Local PilgrimOutlook Editor/Publisher Teri McDowell Ott and other writers explore what God might reveal to us if we intentionally explore our communities. Who do we see? What do we hear? God reveals God’s self when we look.

These are the questions that Teri McDowell Ott asks in her 2024 Lenten devotional. Your purchase includes several digital versions — perfect for printing into booklets, inserting into bulletins, or emailing to your community. Learn more.

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A previous version of this article misspelled the author Christine Valters Paintner’s name as “Painter.” The Outlook regrets the error.