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Letters to Corinne

40 Winks, 40 Days, 40 Years: What’s so special about 40? Part 2

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

What’s so special about 40? Part 2


Dear Corinne,

You had some great ideas for observing Lent and how wise you are not to attempt all of them at once! Selecting two that are achievable, is definitely the way forward!

You asked what creative activities I have engaged in during Lent. Being left-handed I found learning to sew/knit/crochet a challenge, mainly because I was taught by right-handed people! So, I have avoided those activities. But I have often made rugs (of the latch-hook variety) and set aside time each day to do so. “Who were they for?”…. I hear you ask!

Sometimes I prayed for a specific community while I made them and then asked God which member of the community, I should give the rug to when it was finished. Sometimes it was for a specific individual.

Let us turn now to Lent and the theme of forty. As you know, Lent is the six week period between Ash Wednesday and Easter Saturday and is 40 days long. Sundays are discounted because they commemorate the resurrection of Jesus. It marks the time Jesus spent in the wilderness after his baptism and is a time for reflection and preparation for Easter.

It is a season for engaging more fully with the Spiritual Disciplines and many people observe it by giving up certain foods/drinks, or activities. I remember, as a child, my elderly aunt always gave up sweets and sugar in her tea, but delighted in having both in considerable quantities on Sundays during Lent! There was no Sunday respite in my home, and sweets disappeared for the entire season!!

There are between 102 and 147 times that 40 is mentioned in the Bible – depending on which version you look at! The number is used in general to symbolise a season of testing, trial or judgement. Listed below are some of them:

  • Noah – we read that it rained for 40 days and 40 nights.
  • Moses – spent 40 years in Egypt, 40 years in the desert and 40 days on Mount Horeb…twice!
  • The spies went into the Promised Land for 40 days
  • Goliath – challenged the Israelites for 40 days before David showed up and killed him
  • Elijah – journeyed 40 days to Mount Horeb
  • Jonah – warned the people of Nineveh they had 40 days before God’s judgement would fall on their city.
  • Jesus – fasted/tempted for 40days in the wilderness after his baptism.
  • Jesus – appeared to his disciples and followers during the 40 days between his Resurrection and Ascension. (Commissioning)
  • These are references to forty days. Forty years appears to represent a generation, or a transition period. But what is the significance of 40 for us today?

While there is nothing magical about 40, there is something significant about embarking on a forty day challenge or exercise, especially if you are serious about wanting to draw closer to God and to go deeper with him. I have found three books particularly profound in this respect:

A 40-Day Journey with the Daily Office

Draw the Circle: The 40 Day Prayer Challenge by Mark Batterson

The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren (2012)

We will look at these together in the letters that follow!

Keep going with your chosen activities for Lent and don’t forget to record your insights in your prayer journal!

with love,



Written by Dorinda Miller; © D Miller 2016. For full credits please see the site credits page
This letter is from the series: '40 Winks, 40 Days, 40 Years'