Prayer Requests and Learning How to Pray

A Beautiful Prayer for Ash Wednesday

  • Kelly Givens Contributing Editor to Crosswalk.com
  • 2022 28 Feb
A Beautiful Prayer for Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday is a penitent service that uses ashes to mark the sign of the cross on the believer’s forehead, symbolizing our sinful nature and need for salvation. Prayer plays  an important part on Ash Wednesday as a time for reflection, repentance, and preparation for Lent. The Catholic church usually uses the ashes of Palm Sunday branches from the previous year’s Palm Sunday service. Ash Wednesday is always 46 days before Easter Sunday and marks the beginning of the Lenten season. Lent is traditionally a 40-day fast — a reference to the time Jesus spent being tempted in the desert — that seeks to prepare the heart of the believer for the solemn remembrance of Jesus’ death. It concludes and is followed by a joyous Easter Sunday celebration of the resurrection of Christ.

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A Prayer for Ash Wednesday:

Lord, Holy One, have mercy on us. We confess our sins to you. We have fallen short of your glory and without your mercy and grace, we would be dust. We repent now. Lord, as we enter into this Lenten season, be near to us. Help us, by your Holy Spirit, to feel right conviction and repentance for our sin. Help us, by your Spirit, to have the strength to overcome the enemy.

Thank you, Lord, that Easter is coming! Death has no sting, no victory, because of Jesus! Glory and honor and praise to His name! Thank you for rescuing us. Help us keep both the weight and the joy of this season in our hearts and we move through the next several weeks. Help us bear the good fruit of your Spirit.

Thank you that the ashes on our forehead do not symbolize our ultimate reality. From dust we might have been formed, but our bodies, our spirits, ourselves, await beautiful redemption and the restoration of all things. Help us long and look forward to that day, and let it come quickly, Lord Jesus. Amen.  - Excerpted from What Is Ash Wednesday? by Kelly Givens

Psalm 51 - A Prayer Traditionally Recited During Ash Wednesday Services

1. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 

2. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

3. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.

4. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.

5. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

6. Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

7. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

8. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

9. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.

10. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

11. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.

12. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

13. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you.

14. Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.

15. Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.

16. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

17. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

18. May it please you to prosper Zion, to build up the walls of Jerusalem.

19. Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous, in burnt offerings offered whole; then bulls will be offered on your altar.

Does the Bible Mention Ash Wednesday?

While the Bible does not mention the celebration of Ash Wednesday or command its practice, the Bible does mention ashes and dust in several places. The use of ashes in the Old Testament onward symbolized mourning, repentance, and the frailty of humanity.

“By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” — Genesis 3:19

“When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly.” — Esther 4:1

“My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” — Job 42:5-6

“All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.” — Ecclesiastes 3:20

“So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.” — Daniel 9:3

“The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. When Jonah’s warning 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.” — Jonah 3:5-6

“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.” — Matthew 11:21

Ash Wednesday was celebrated by the early church and continues to be celebrated today by believers of different denominations. It is not commanded in Scripture nor is it bad if your church does or doesn't host a service. The ashes are symbolic of a penitent nature, but they do not affect your salvation or sanctification in any way. Salvation belongs to the Lord alone. It is by grace through faith that we are saved, which is the work of the Holy Spirit.

Read more: Ash Wednesday Scripture

More Prayers for Ash Wednesday

The additional prayers below focused on repentance, seeking God, and gratefulness for Jesus, will help you prepare for the Lenten Season.

A Prayer to Behold the Lamb of God

God our Father, You are sovereign over all and Creator of each and every one of us. Your ways are not are ways. Your thoughts are not our thoughts. Give us perspective, as we seek to understand ancient sacrifice and its significance in our modern lives. Reveal to us the wisdom we need to embrace and fully receive salvation. 

May our lives behold the Lamb of God. Jesus, Your defeat of death will not be lost on us. We will daily take up our crosses to follow You, until the day we hug You in heaven. What a Savior, You are! The Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. Let our hearts be full of gratitude for the gravity of the cross.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen. (Meg Bucher)

A Prayer of Preparation

Father, my heart longs to focus on you, to be fully yours as we remember the amazing gift of your son Jesus Christ. Search me. Know me. Find everything in me that is fighting against fully surrendering to you.

I have sinned. against you so often, in so many ways. It’s so easy to get distracted, to lose my focus on what’s important. My heart longs to be perfectly devoted to you, to have you at the forefront of my mind every moment of every day. I long to be in constant communication with you, praying without ceasing.

I need you. I need your cleansing, your forgiveness. I need your presence and your love. I need your mercy and compassion. I need you to purify me, to wipe my slate clean, to throw my sins as far as the east is from the west.

Wash me with the blood of Jesus Christ, the perfect Lamb of God, the perfect sacrifice given for my sins. Wash me so you see His righteousness when you look at me, instead of the stain of my sin and guilt. Give me a fresh start, making me whole and pure so I can come into your presence, be in fellowship with you. 

In Jesus’ name I pray, amen. (excerpted from Dena Johnson)

A  Prayer for Repentance

Dear Lord, thank you for your forgiveness. Thank you for not abandoning us to our mistakes, but for reaching out instead to bring us home. Help convict me of sin and help me accept your mercy without shame. Thank you for the love you have poured out for me and all of your children. Help me live out of that love today. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

A Prayer to Prepare Your Heart for Fasting

Dear Father, How priceless is Your unfailing love. You have fearfully and wonderfully created us. You have ordained all our days and written them in your book before we were born. All your thoughts towards us are precious.

We praise You because we are Your handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, ones You have prepared in advance for us to do. We come before You today to humble ourselves before You, submitting to Your will for our lives. Because of You, Father, surely goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives.

Let us be devoted to living out Your will on earth, to be more concerned with storing up treasures in Heaven than on earth. Lead us, Lord, in the way we should go. Direct our steps and fulfill Your plans for our lives. Let our feet run swiftly to follow after You.

In Jesus name, Amen (by Lynette Kittle)

A Prayer for Gratitude

Dear God,, Thank you for your amazing power and work in our lives, thank you for your goodness and for your blessings over us. Thank you that you are Able to bring hope through even the toughest of times, strengthening us for your purposes. Thank you for your great love and care. Thank you for your mercy and grace. Thank you that you are always with us and will never leave us. Thank you for your incredible sacrifice so that we might have freedom and life. Forgive us for when we don't thank you enough, for who you are, for all that you do, for all that you've given. Help us to set our eyes and our hearts on you afresh. Renew our spirits, fill us with your peace and joy. We love you and we need you, this day and every day. We give you praise and thanks, for You alone are worthy!

In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Further Reading:

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