Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ash Wednesday: A Prayer Space

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”  Psalm 51:10

Today is Ash Wednesday.  Here at A Becoming Life I am setting aside space for us to mark the beginning of Lent well.  Today's post is a  prayer experience. It is based on a time of prayer I designed in 2011 using Phyllis Tickle’s Lenten book, Eastertide.  You may notice the post is significantly longer than usual due to the reflective way it will guide you through a time of worship designed for Ash Wednesday.  Please take your time and linger as the Holy Spirit leads.

Things to know:

There will be seven points where you are asked to pause and consider something.  Notice the Scripture first.  It will set the tone for reflection.  Next, take a look at what you are being invited to consider.  These are meant as conversation starters between you and God.  You may find that at some places you will linger long and others you will move through more quickly.  This is to be expected. 

You might find it helpful to have a journal or something to write on as you go through the post. 

Take a moment to grab a black marker, a couple of slips of paper you would like to post around your home, and an object that is beautiful or pleasing to you.  By doing this now, you can fully participate without having to go in search of something a bit later.

Acknowledgements to be given:

All Scripture (except the Jonah passage), the Litany of Penance, the Concluding Prayer of the Church, and the Appointed Prayer of the Week appear in this post as they do in Eastertide.  They have been used with permission of the author.

My dear mother-in-law has put together the downloadable prayer for us to use this week.  I am extremely thankful that she has been generous with her time and talents.

Have a wonderful time connecting with God.  May you find that as you spend time in God's presence He leads you to mark this Lent well, walking it with Him. 

Grace and peace,

Jessica :)


“All your works praise you, O LORD, and your faithful servants bless you.
They make known the glory of your kingdom and speak of your power.” Psalm 145:10-11

Ann Voskamp writes: “We give to God when we give thanks.”

Begin this time of worship by lifting up specific things that you give thanks to God for in your life.  These items might be events, actions, or people in your life that come to mind.  They may be something that happened today, this week, this month, or more generally. 

Take a moment to write them down or voice them aloud. 

As you do so you “make known the glory of God’s kingdom and speak of His power.”    


“Hear the voice of my prayer when I cry out to you, when I lift up my hands to your holy of holies.” Psalm 28:2

Psalm 26:2  says: “Test me, O Lord, and try me; examine my heart and mind.” 

Make this cry your own. 

Take some time to be introspective.  What might God discover in your heart* and your mind if He were to examine them. 

Take note of the things that come to mind—both positive and negative.  Voice these to God.  Perhaps you would like to stand and lift your hands as you do, asking God to “Hear the voice of your prayer as you cry out.” 

*If you are wondering about what the heart is exactly, Proverbs 4:23 says, “Watch over your heart with all diligence for from it flow the springs of life."  Additionally, Dallas Willard writes that, “The heart is where the decisions and choices are made for the whole person.” 

“But now—declares Yahweh—come back to me with all of your heart, fasting, weeping, mourning.  Tear your hearts and not your clothes, and come back to Yahweh, your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, rich in faithful love.”   Joel  2:12-13

God is good.  He does not leave us in a place of recognizing the dark places of our heart, only to despair.  Instead, He invites us to come to Him, to lay these unsavory qualities, attitudes, and things we have done at His feet.  He invites us to confess and to repent of our sin.  To repent means to turn away from and begin walking in a new and opposite direction, towards Christ.

Read the Litany of Penance; and make this prayer your prayer.  Read it in the way that seems natural to you—quietly or aloud.  When you have finished move on to the next reflection.  (If you need some time to really feel in an authentic attitude of repentance wait a bit before you read the prayer.) 

Litany of Penance

Most holy and merciful Father:
I confess to you and to the whole communion of saints
In heaven and on earth,
That I have sinned by my own fault
In thought, word and deed;
By what I have done, and by what I have left undone.

I have not loved you with my whole heart, and mind, and strength.  I have not
Loved my neighbor as myself.  I have not forgiven others, as I have been forgiven.
Have mercy on me, Lord.

I have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us.  I have not been true to
The mind of Christ.  I have grieved your Holy Spirit.
Have mercy on me, Lord.

I confess to you, Lord, all of my past unfaithfulness:  the pride, hypocrisy, and
Impatience of my life
I confess to you, Lord.

My self-indulgent appetites and ways, and my exploitation of other people,
I confess to you, Lord.

My anger at my own frustration, and my envy of those more fortunate than I,
I confess to you, Lord.

My intemperate love of wordly goods and comforts, and my dishonesty in
Daily life and work,
I confess to you, Lord.

My negligence in prayer and worship, and my failure to commend the faith
That is in me,
I confess to you, Lord.

Accept my repentance, Lord, for the wrongs I have done: for my blindness to
Human need and suffering, and my indifference to indulgence and cruelty,
Accept my repentance, Lord.

For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward my neighbors, and
For my prejudice and contempt towards those who differ from me,
Accept my repentance, Lord.

For my waste and pollution of your creation, and my lack of concern for those
Who come after us,
Accept my repentance, Lord.

Restore me, good Lord, and your anger depart from me,
Favorably hear me for your mercy is great.
Accomplish in me and all of your church the work of your salvation,
That I might show forth all your glory in the world.

By the cross and passion of your Son, our Lord,
Bring me with your saints to the joy of His resurrection.


The Ninevites believed God.  They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.  When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust.  Then he issued a proclamation in Nineveh: 

“By the decree of the king and his nobles:

Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink.  But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth.  Let everyone call urgently on God.  Let them give up their evil ways and their violence.  Who knows?  God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.”  Jonah 3:5-10

In ancient times, ashes were used to symbolize mourning.  Dusting oneself with ashes was a symbol of expressing sorrow for sin and faults, a way of pleading to God in an act of repentance.  In the Old Testament, Job says to God: “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.  Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”  When you understand the symbolism of ashes in this context, it may not surprise you that Ash Wednesday is traditionally a day of repentance and remembering.

On the cross, Jesus took upon himself the sin and pain of the world, including the things you spent time confessing just a few minutes ago.  Pick up your black marker* or take some time to find one now.  Use it to draw on your hand or on a piece of paper the symbol of a cross as an act of repentance and recognition that when “we confess our sin Christ is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” 1 John 1:9.  As you look at the symbol of the cross on your hand throughout the rest of your day, be reminded of what Christ has done for you.

*Sadly, I have no way of providing ashes across this digital medium. This marker will be used in lieu of ashes and not on the forehead.  If you plan to attend an Ash Wednesday service today you will likely have ashes marked on your forehead in the shape of a cross.  The ashes are made of the palms used last Palm Sunday and are usually mixed with oil to form a paste for use on Ash Wednesday.


“Weigh my heart, summon me by night, melt me down; you will find no impurity in me.
I give no offense with my mouth as others do; I have heeded the words of your lips.
My footsteps hold fast to the ways of your law; in your paths my feet shall not stumble.
I call upon you, O God, for you will answer me; incline your ear to me and hear my words.
Show me your marvelous loving-kindness, O Savior of those who take refuge at your right hand from those who rise up against them.
Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me under the shadow of your wings.”   Psalm 17:3-8

Ash Wednesday is the day which begins the 40 days of Lent.  Emilie Griffin describes Lent in this way: “Externally Lent is a time of doing without.  It is a time of self-denial, a penitential time, a time of repentance.  But inwardly, Lent is a time of drawing closer to Jesus.” 

As you move forward into this season of the Church liturgical calendar I invite you to participate by surrendering something and by intentionally making time and space to connect with Christ.

Take some time to talk with God.  Consider what you might surrender to Christ during Lent.  Also consider in what ways you might intentionally set aside time and space to spend with Christ in this time leading up to Easter.  Take a moment to write down what you will surrender and what you will commit to.  Consider writing it on a slip of paper and posting it somewhere in your home where you will see it each day between now and Easter.  Consider sharing with the community here by posting in the comments section at the end of the post the way you will be moving into this season “surrendered” and  “making time and space.”

A few ideas to consider surrendering: Fear, Need for approval, Facebook, Television, Criticism

A few ideas to consider for making time and space: Reading through one of the Gospels, Something related to one of your spiritual pathways, Serving someone who crosses your path each day, Counting the ways God is good in a gratitude journal


Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.   Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.  Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory for ever and ever.  Amen.

Take a few moments to think on these words from the Lord’s Prayer.  One thing that is comforting in them is that it is God who is acting.  It is His kingdom come; His will to be done; His provision for bread; He that forgives; He that leads and delivers; and it is for His glory.  We are only responsible to forgive others. 

Take heart and know that as you surrender and as you create time and space this Lent, it is “not by might nor by power, but by the Lord’s spirit” that you will have the perseverance and endurance to complete the task you have committed to. 

And do you know what God will do with this offering of repentance, surrender, and time?  He longs to make something beautiful.  Isaiah 61:3 says He will “bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes.”  He will make something beautiful from our humble offering.

Pick up the item that was beautiful or pleasing to you.  If you did not pick one out, go do that now.  Let this object be a symbol for you reminding you that Jesus will take that which you offer him and make it beautiful—beauty for ashes.  Place it somewhere where you will look at it regularly and be reminded of His promise.


“Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought me in safety to this new day: Preserve me with your mighty power, that I may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all I do direct me to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ my Lord.  Amen.”   - The Concluding Prayer of the Church

Take a look at the graphic image of “The Appointed Prayer for the Week ” below. 

Read it. 

Take a moment to print out a copy here. 

Place it somewhere where you will continue pray it during your times of prayer for the remainder of the week. 

You will not be praying it alone.  It is a prayer you will be praying with the greater community of the Church.  It is a symbol of our unity just as we are unified in this season through prayer and seeking the Lord and by walking with Him intentionally during this time of Lent. 

Blessings as you walk forward into Lent well. 

Go in peace.

1 comment:

  1. I will surrender fear; and I will make time and space with God to rest.