Lenten Study Guide 2013


Leader’s Guide for Session 1
Leader’s Guide for Session 2
Leader’s Guide for Session 3
Leader’s Guide for Session 4
Leader’s Guide for Session 5
Leader’s Guide for Session 6
Complete Supply List by Session

PDF Printout of Complete Study Sessions and Handouts

Introduction and Overview

This Lenten study guide is a gift from The Upper Room magazine. The study builds on reading the daily meditations that appear in The Upper Room magazine during Lent. All participants need is a personal copy of the January-February and March-April issues of The Upper Room magazine and a Bible. Both small groups and individuals may use this guide during the days of Lent in preparation for remembering the death and celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, February 13, 2013, and continues for six weeks. This study assumes an introductory meeting on Ash Wednesday and sessions on each of the five Wednesdays thereafter but may be adapted for any meeting night. In this study we also assume that the group will not meet during Holy Week, but we offer reflection materials for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy (Low) Saturday to be distributed during the last session (the week leading up to Palm Sunday).

An Overview

The theme for this study comes from the story of Jesus healing an unnamed blind man. The story is told in Mark 8:22-26. Each session invites participants to cultivate one aspect of learning to look more deeply at everyday choices and acts, using them as a window to learn to recognize and attend to God’s presence and activity in our lives and in the lives of those around us.

God is continually at work in us and in those near us and in those dear to us, drawing us toward fuller life in Christ. Sometimes we are aware of God’s work, but more often we coast through our days without seeing that God is alongside us, working with us and within us. Cultivating awareness of God’s often-quiet work opens the door to deepening our life in Christ. We can become more deliberate participants in being transformed more fully into Christ’s likeness. We will explore this over the next six sessions.

Lent is a time to prepare to re-live the stories of the self-giving love of Christ, in order to more fully experience the joy of resurrection and accept the new life that God promises. Lent, Holy Week, and Easter help us to mark time as we look for the promises of God to be fulfilled. They remind us to keep our eyes open for God’s grace, alive in our world and our hearts as God changes us and makes us new.

Each session, participants will be asked to remember a single word as a way to open their eyes more fully to what God is doing. To help them pay attention, each session you will prepare index cards for group members to take home. The card will bear a single word in large letters and a simple question. (See examples in handouts.) Group members may use each session’s card as a bookmark and a mini-journal. In the first session, you will invite participants to keep a personal spiritual journal during the study (handout about keeping a spiritual journal provided), but most will probably use only the cards. Doing even this much will deepen their awareness of God’s presence, however, so focus on the invitation that each session’s word offers. Keep a journal yourself so you can speak about the process as you renew the invitation (when appropriate) during the weekly sessions.

Since participants may not have read the daily meditations leading up to the first meeting, that session will be slightly different than the sessions in later weeks, basing group discussion on only the meditation for Ash Wednesday, which you will read during the meeting. This is the only session that you will read the entire meditation in the group; the following sessions’ format assumes that group members have been reading the daily meditations and Bible readings suggested in The Upper Room magazine.

Each session includes

  • Opening prayer/litany
  • An introduction to the theme for the session
  • Group reflection on The Upper Room meditations for the week
  • Interactive Bible study
  • Closing prayer


This six-session study is based on reading the meditations and suggested scripture readings in The Upper Room daily devotional guide, beginning with the meditation for Wednesday, February 13. Each participant will need a copy of the January/February and March/April 2013 issues of The Upper Room. To order copies of the magazine, call 1-800-972-0433. If your copies have not arrived by February 8, we can e-mail the first session’s meditations to you. You may then photocopy them for your group. If you find yourself in this situation, send an email to TheUpperRoomMagazine@upperroom.org, with the words “Need Lenten Meditations” in the subject line.

General Instructions

Participants should read the scripture, meditation, and prayer suggested each day in The Upper Room.

This study guide may be used by a group or adapted for individual reflection and prayer.

Leadership may rotate among group members. Each session the leader should contact participants ahead of time if he or she chooses to involve others in special readings or prayers during the weekly sessions.

Opening Prayer and Introduction (to be used at the beginning of each session) 

Light the Christ candle and invite group members to join in this litany:

One:    In Jesus Christ, God offers light to help us see the way to life.
All:       Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life in all its fullness.”*
One:    Let us come into God’s presence with expectant hearts.
All:       Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”
One:    Let us commit ourselves to walking in the light as God gives it.
All:       Thank you, God, for the word that gives light and life. Amen.

*Unless noted to the contrary, all scripture quotes in this study are taken from the NRSV.

Session-by-Session Overview

Session 1: Hope
God’s offer of wholeness and fullness of life invites us into a journey that we take one step at a time – and sometimes very slowly. This session will invite participants to open their eyes to signs of hope that can sustain us as God’s work continues in us.
Passage: Meditation for Ash Wednesday — Feb. 13.
Activity: Looking at The Upper Room magazine (see to “How to Have a Daily Devotional Time”)
Card: Hope.

Session 2:  Act
(Meditations for February 14-20)
God changes us, preparing us to live in God’s presence and according to God’s purposes. As the old saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Faith must move beyond an interior conversation with God to actions that embody the love of God.

Each us grows in a unique way, and finding our own way to serve God frees us to serve with less worry.
Passages: Mark 8:22-26 and 10:46-52 (two blind men healed)
Activity: Teams to look at scripture stories
Card: Act.

Session 3:  Stretch
(Meditations for February 21-27)
God’s call does not leave us where we are and as we are. In countless small ways and sometimes in large ones, God continually invites us to do just a bit more, to stretch our spiritual muscles of kindness, patience, love, self-control, gentleness, and so on. (See Galatians 5:22.)
Passage: Luke 10:38-42 (Mary/Martha)
Activity: Journaling
Card: Stretch.

Session 4:  Let Go
(Meditations for February 28-March 5)
Receiving what God wants to give us, including forgiveness, depends on our having open hearts and hands.  If we cling tightly to the past, to hurts, even to our ambitions and dreams, our clenched hands leave us unable to accept God’s wonderful gifts. This session invites us to let go of hurts and sin and of preoccupation with winning, getting ahead, even being spiritual, to live in the freedom of knowing that we are loved and supported by God.
Passage: Matthew 18:22-33 (debtors’ prison)
Activity: Debtors’ reflection and balloon/ashes release
Card: Let go.

Session 5:  Search
(Meditations for March 6-12)
Just as most precious metals do not lie on top of the ground but must be mined, many truths that God wants us to learn require our cooperation. This digging doesn’t require a strong back or a college degree in theology but simply the will to cooperate in trying to understand what God is saying to us through scripture and our experiences. Even our questions are an opportunity to draw closer to God, who welcomes us as surely as Jesus welcomed Nicodemus.  Fear and failure are normal parts of the journey.
Passage: Matthew 14:22-33 (Peter getting out of the boat)
Activity: Painting with non-dominant hand
Card: Search.

Session 6: Accept
(Meditations for March 13-19)
As hard as it may be for some of us to admit, finally we cannot “prove” any of the tenets of our faith. Belief in Christ is not about traditional ways of knowing. Grasping the truth of Easter requires us to be willing to set aside our usual, rational ways of approaching life to embrace the stories of Christ as our personal truth.
Passage: John 3:1-10 (Nicodemus)
Activity: Role-play questions and compassionate listening
Card: Accept.