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18 Ash Wednesday Scriptures to Prepare Your Heart for Lent

  • Hope Bolinger SEO Editor
  • 2021 8 Feb
Ash Wednesday written in ashes on beige background with palm branches around edging, ash wednesday prayer

Ash Wednesday kicks off the Lenten season. Typically, in an Ash Wednesday service, a priest or pastor will place an ash cross on the foreheads of the congregation. The pastor will often recite one of the Ash Wednesday Scriptures below or will preach a sermon on it.

To prepare your heart for this Lent season, I’ve compiled a handful of Ash Wednesday Bible verses that you can read prior to service, after, or suggest to your pastor for their sermon.

Want a devotional for each day of Lent, with Scriptures that will bring joy to your heart? Get your free 40 Day Lent Devotional Guide to lead you in prayer and scripture reading through the Lenten Season! Download your copy HERE.

18 Ash Wednesday Bible Verses

Genesis 2:7: Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

God forms mankind out of the dust in the beginning. The only reason the ashes come to life is that he breathes life into them.

Genesis 3:19: “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.”

Preachers or priests will often recite this verse on Ash Wednesday. This humbling reminder helps us to remember that we cannot attain salvation on our own. Because of our sin, we shall return to dust. But we do not have to experience death twice, thanks to Christ’s sacrifice.

Numbers 19:17: For the unclean they shall take some ashes of the burnt sin offering, and fresh water shall be added in a vessel.

In the Old Testament, ashes made something once unclean, clean. In the same way, Ash Wednesday symbolically “purifies” us by putting an ash cross on our forehead. We remember that through the cross, Christ has made us white as snow.

Esther 4:3: And in every province, wherever the king's command and his decree reached, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting and weeping and lamenting, and many of them lay in sackcloth and ashes.

Ashes also represent mourning and desperate pleas for God to change a situation. In the case of Esther, the evil Haman convinced the king to commit genocide against the Israelite people. Thankfully, through Esther, the Israelite people are saved.

Job 2:8: And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes.

Job sits in ashes to mourn what has happened with his family. This is a common practice we see throughout the Bible.

Job 42:5-6: “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

Ashes represent repentance as well in the Bible.

Psalm 51:2: Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.”

Although not strictly speaking of ashes, we know that through the cross, Christ cleanses us of our impurities. We remember this through the cross symbolism on Ash Wednesday.

Psalm 103:14: “for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.”

God knows about our weaknesses and imperfections. Nevertheless, he continues to love us. Enough to die the most excruciating death for our sins.

Ecclesiastes 3:20: All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return.”

This verse is also commonly recited during an Ash Wednesday service.

Isaiah 58:5: Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?

We’ll address this point moments later in a Matthew passage, but God does not want us to do Lent fasting (what Ash Wednesday kicks off) just for the sake of appearing pious. The Israelites did this with sacrifices. They’d put on a big show about it, but they would not have their hearts invested in the matter. God doesn’t want us to repent or worship just for show.

Ezekiel 9:4: “And the Lord said to him, “Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.”

The origins of the cross on the foreheads on Ash Wednesday stem from this verse. Ezekiel does this during the cusp of the Babylonian invasion and captivity that would befall the Southern Kingdom.

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

Daniel, a captive in Babylon, prays and sits in ashes once he has seen some frightening visions about events to befall his kingdom and future kingdoms to come.

Matthew 4:2: “And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry.”

Ash Wednesday kicks off Lent, a 40 day (give or take six days), a period where we remember how Jesus resisted the temptation of the devil in the desert. And these 40 days help us to prepare for Holy Week, and ultimately, Resurrection Sunday. 

Matthew 6:16-18: “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

As explained above, God doesn’t want us to put on a show for Lent. We shouldn’t be making grand posts on social media about what all we plan to give up for this season. Instead, we should fast in secret.

Luke 10:13: Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.

Jesus issues a number of woes to various cities in this passage. He warns that they should have repented in sackcloth and ashes.

John 14:6: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

Ash Wednesday reminds us of this passage. As dust, we cannot save ourselves from our eternal fate we have sealed for ourselves. Because of our sin, we have earned ourselves an eternal death. But because of Jesus, we have a way to experience eternal joy with our Father in heaven.

Acts 3:19: “Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away.”

Repentance cleanses us. Lent offers us a time to do so.

1 John 3:3: All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

For other great Ash Wednesday Bible verses check out this article here, and this one here.

Further Reading

What Is Ash Wednesday?

When Is Ash Wednesday This Year? 2021 Start of Lent

A Beautiful Prayer for Ash Wednesday

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Coompia77

headshot of author Hope BolingerHope Bolinger is an editor at Salem, literary agent at C.Y.L.E., and a graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 1,000 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her modern-day Daniel trilogy released its first two installments with IlluminateYA, and the final one, Vision, releases in August of 2021. She is also the co-author of the Dear Hero duology, which was published by INtense Publications. And her inspirational adult romance Picture Imperfect releases in October of 2021. Find out more about her at her website.