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Ash Wednesday
Ash Wednesday

19 Prayers for this Ash Wednesday

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Ash Wednesday is one of the most popular and important holy days in the liturgical calendar. Ash Wednesday opens Lent, a season of fasting and prayer.

Ash Wednesday takes place 46 days before Easter Sunday, and is cheifly observed by Catholics, although many other Christians observe it too.

Ash Wednesday comes from the ancient Jewish tradition of penance and fasting. The practice includes the wearing of ashes on the head. The ashes symbolize the dust from which God made us. As the priest applies the ashes to a person’s forehead, he speaks the words: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Alternatively, the priest may speak the words, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.”

19 Prayers for this Ash Wednesday

  1. Loving Father,
    all the fancy words
    in the world,
    expressed in eloquent prose,
    decorated with emotion,
    spoken with conviction,
    cannot compete with a heartfelt
    ‘sorry’
    when all other words fail.
    There are times
    when we are all too aware
    of our limitations,
    conscious of sin,
    and the distance it creates between us.
    Sometimes ‘sorry’
    is all the heart can bear to say aloud.
    It is only you
    who can read and understand
    the language of our hearts,
    only you who can translate our ‘sorry’
    into the prayer we would have prayed,
    if we had the words within us.
    Then you forgive,
    and having forgiven
    surround us in an embrace of love,
    drawing us close to your heart,
    as it was always meant to be.
    Thank you, Loving Father,
    that you listen to hearts,
    as well as voices
    Thank you.


  2. Gracious God, today begins a period of inner reflection and examination. The days stretch before me and invite me inward to that silent, holy space that holds your Spirit. This special time beckons me to see my life through Christ’s eyes and the truth and reality of your love incarnate. Give me the grace to enter the space of these days with anticipation of our meeting. And, when I open my soul to your presence, let your loving kindness flow over me and seep into the pockets of my heart. I ask this for the sake of your love.

  3. Almighty and everlasting God,
    you hate nothing you have made
    and forgive the sins of all who are penitent:
    Create and make in us new and contrite hearts,
    that we, worthily lamenting our sins
    and acknowledging our wretchedness,
    may obtain of you, the God of all mercy,
    perfect remission and forgiveness;
    through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns
    with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
    1979 Book of Common Prayer


  4. Jesus, you place on my forehead
    the sign of my sister Death:
    “Remember you are dust,
    and to dust you shall return.”

    How not hear her wise advice?
    One day my life on earth will end;
    the limits on my years are set,
    though I know not the day or hour.
    Shall I be ready to go to meet you?
    Let this holy season be a time of grace
    for me and all this world.

    “Teach us to number our days aright,
    that we may gain wisdom of heart.”
    O Jesus, you place on my forehead
    the sign of your saving Cross:
    “Turn from sin and be faithful
    to the gospel.”

    How can I turn from sin
    unless I turn to you?

    You speak, you raise your hand,
    you touch my mind and call my name,
    “Turn to the Lord your God again.”

    These days of your favor
    leave a blessing as you pass
    on me and all your people.
    Turn to us, Lord God,
    and we shall turn to you.


  5. Come, all who are thirsty
    says Jesus, our Lord,
    come, all who are weak,
    taste the living water
    that I shall give.
    Dip your hands in the stream,
    refresh body and soul,
    drink from it,
    depend on it,
    for this water
    will never run dry.
    Come, all who are thirsty
    says Jesus, our Lord.


  6. O my all-merciful God and Lord,
    Jesus Christ, full of pity:
    Through Your great love You came down
    and became incarnate in order to save everyone.
    O Savior, I ask You to save me by Your grace!
    If You save anyone because of their works,
    that would not be grace but only reward of duty,
    but You are compassionate and full of mercy!
    You said, O my Christ,
    “Whoever believes in Me shall live and never die.”
    If then, faith in You saves the lost, then save me,
    O my God and Creator, for I believe.
    Let faith and not my unworthy works be counted to me, O my God,
    for You will find no works which could account me righteous.
    O Lord, from now on let me love You as intensely as I have loved sin,
    and work for You as hard as I once worked for the evil one.
    I promise that I will work to do Your will,
    my Lord and God, Jesus Christ, all the days of my life and forever more.
    Prayer of St. John Chrysostom


  7. God is our refuge
    in times of trouble,
    keeping our feet steady upon the road,
    watching over us and keeping us from harm.
    L: Where does our help come from?
    ALL: Our help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth!

    God is our fortress
    in times of distress,
    circling us in the safety of his arms,
    granting peace when our lives are not at ease.
    L: Where does our help come from?
    ALL: Our help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth!

    God is our Father
    who knows us so well,
    wanting only the best for his children,
    willing always to forgive and forget.
    L: Where does our help come from?
    ALL: Our help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth!


  8. Forty days alone,
    a wilderness of thoughts,
    tempting and inviting thoughts,
    which could so easily have distracted you
    from your task, your mission,
    your vision.
    Yet you emerged, stronger and more attuned
    to all that had to be done,
    despite a time constraint
    that to our eyes would have seemed hopeless.
    We too live in stressful times.
    Demands are made of our time,
    that leave so little
    for the important things of life.
    We are easily distracted
    in the wilderness of our lives,
    by every call to go this way or that,
    to turn stone to bread
    leap from mountains,
    and do all that would keep us from the truth.
    We listen to the voices of this world,
    and ignore the one who endured all this
    and so much more,
    and emerged triumphant,
    that we might not have to suffer so.
    Forgive us, Father,
    when we get distracted from our task.
    Forgive us those times when we try
    to be all things to all men,
    and fail to be anything to anyone


  9. Lord, we would grow with you
    New shoots reaching out
    Hands stretched upward
    Like leaves newly formed
    Soaking up your light and warmth
    Lord, we would grow with you

    Lord, we would grow with you
    In sunshine and rain
    In darkness and light
    In cold days and summer days
    From Springtime to Winter
    Lord, we would grow with you

    Lord, we would grow with you
    And bring forth fruit
    That is pleasing to you
    Fed by your living water
    Giving sustenance to others
    Lord, we would grow with you


  10. Lord, grant us simplicity of faith
    and a generosity of service
    that gives without counting cost.
    A life overflowing with Grace
    poured out from the One
    who gave everything,
    that we might show
    the power of love
    to a broken world,
    and share the truth
    from a living Word.
    Lord, grant us simplicity of faith,
    and a yearning to share it


  11. You were a man of suffering
    acquainted with grief,
    loved and despised in equal measure.
    You understand humanity,
    know our failings,
    love us despite the people that we are.
    When we, like Peter, deny you
    by word or action,
    forgive us.
    When we, like Judas, are tempted
    to follow a different path,
    forgive us.
    When we, like those in the crowd
    allow you to be crucified,
    forgive us.
    Bring us to the foot of the Cross
    to stand next to the one who,
    looking into your eyes declared
    ‘Surely this is the Son of God’


  12. It is customary, Lord
    to give something up
    during the season of Lent.
    What would you have me do without?
    I who have so much.
    Chocolate?
    Cream cakes?
    Cigarettes?
    Sweets?
    Swearing?
    The list is endless
    and I could give up all those things
    for the span of 40 days
    quite easily and almost painlessly.
    But what difference would it make
    other than making me feel ‘holier’
    that my friend who makes no such sacrifice?

    What would you have me do without?
    I who have so much
    Selfishness?
    Conceit?
    Envy?
    Pride?
    I fear before I ask,
    that the answer might be ‘yes’
    and the giving up
    would be all too real, Lord.
    It would be difficult,
    painful,
    sacrificial,
    a real cross to carry for 40 days,
    and more?


  13. Father in Heaven,
    Protect us in our struggle against evil.
    As we begin the discipline of Lent,
    make this season holy by our self-denial.
    Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ
    who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit
    one God, for ever and ever.
    International Committee on English in the Liturgy (ICEL)


  14. Loving Father,
    all the fancy words
    in the world,
    expressed in eloquent prose,
    decorated with emotion,
    spoken with conviction,
    cannot compete with a heartfelt
    ‘sorry’
    when all other words fail.
    There are times
    when we are all too aware
    of our limitations,
    conscious of sin,
    and the distance it creates between us.
    Sometimes ‘sorry’
    is all the heart can bear to say aloud.
    It is only you
    who can read and understand
    the language of our hearts,
    only you who can translate our ‘sorry’
    into the prayer we would have prayed,
    if we had the words within us.
    Then you forgive,
    and having forgiven
    surround us in an embrace of love,
    drawing us close to your heart,
    as it was always meant to be.
    Thank you, Loving Father,
    that you listen to hearts,
    as well as voices
    Thank you.


  15. Hanging as a vine upon the Wood,
    O Christ our Saviour,
    Thou hast made the ends of the earth
    to drink from the wine of incorruption.
    Therefore do I cry aloud:
    I am darkened always by the hateful drunkenness of sin;
    Give me to drink from the sweet wine of true compunction,
    and grant me now the strength, O Saviour,
    to fast from sensual pleasures,
    for Thou art good and lovest mankind.
    St. Joseph Studite, Lenten Triodion


  16. I already feel that I have entered into the spirit of Lent.  It is a painful season, especially as I remember the death of those I knew in Christchurch.  Here is another prayer to begin the season.
    Ashes to ashes, dust to dust
    All that is not of God must die
    All that is crushed will be restored
    All that is lost will be made new
    God may we repent of ways that do not serve you
    And admit to the tensions that tell us where we need to change
    Christ is coming walking towards the cross
    God may we see him clearly
    Pouring out love
    Pouring out mercy
    Pouring out peace
    May we kneel before him in humble adoration
    May we take up our  cross and follow
    And walk with Christ into the ways of life


  17. O Lord and Master of my life,
    give me not the spirit of laziness,
    despair, lust of power, and idle talk. (prostration)

    But give rather the spirit of sobriety,
    humility, patience and love to Thy servant. (prostration)

    Yea, O Lord and King,
    grant me to see my own transgressions
    and not to judge my brother,
    for blessed art Thou unto ages of ages. Amen (prostration)
    St. Ephraim the Syrian (AD 305-373)


  18. You chose a people for your own,
    to lavish love upon,
    raise up prophets, priests and kings,
    to be the nation through which
    the Messiah would be revealed to the world,
    and through whom your kingdom would come.
    You chose this people gathered here
    to be your children,
    loved and blessed, forgiven
    through the one who knew no sin,
    the King of Glory whose crown was made of thorns,
    and whose name we raise in worship.


  19. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have mercy on me, a sinner.
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