An Ash Wednesday prayer and reflection. A day to remember your mortality and sinful nature. A day to begin a season of repentance and reflection.
Be sure to grab the free download of this printable Ash Wednesday prayer and reflection!
What is Ash Wednesday?
Ash Wednesday is the start of the Lent season, traditionally observed as 40 days of prayer, fasting, and repentance in the days before Easter. In Ash Wednesday services, participants receive a blessing of ashes on their foreheads as a reminder of our mortality. “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. (Genesis 3:19)”
The ashes are prepared by burning the palm fronds used the prior year’s Palm Sunday celebration. They represent death and repentance, a reminder that we are human – mortal, sinful, and in need of repentance.
Whether your church offers an Ash Wednesday service or observes Lent, you can enter into this season with prayer, reflection, and repentance. Taking a season each year to reflect on your life, confess your sins to God, and recommit to walking in God’s way is a powerful way to enter into Easter.
As we begin this Lenten season, take a few minutes to reflect and pray on Ash Wednesday (and maybe stop by a church for your ashes). Then, consider observing a Holy Lent with prayer, fasting, reflection, and repentance.
Find more resources and ideas for observing Lent here:
- 15 Meaningful Things To Give Up For Lent (besides chocolate)
- Prepare Your Heart: A 40-Day Lenten Devotional Using Anglican Prayer Beads
- 10 Holy Week Activities To Make Easter More Joyful
- Holy Week Prayers to Prepare for Your Heart for Easter
- Journey to the Cross Devotional
Ash Wednesday Prayer & Reflection
In many churches today, the pastor will use these words from the Book of Common Prayer to invite God’s people into the season of Lent:
Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great
devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and
it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a
season of penitence and fasting. This season of Lent provided
a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy
Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of
notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful
were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to
the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation
was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set
forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all
Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.
I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the
observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance;
by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and
meditating on God’s holy Word. And, to make a right beginning
of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now
kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer.
To begin your devotion and prayer time on this Ash Wednesday, start with a reading of scripture.
- Joel 2:1-2,12-17
- Psalm 103
- Matthew 6:1-6,16-21
Reflect upon these passages and this beginning of the Lent season:
- How will you observe this Lenten season?
- Will you commit to daily prayer, will you try fasting?
- What most often comes between you and God?
- How can you fast from that during Lent in order to give God your attention?
Respond with this Ash Wednesday prayer. Use the below scriptures and prayers as your prayer and devotion today.
Consider reading these aloud, or at least read them slowly. Don’t be tempted to skim through the passages, but instead listen closely to each word with your heart and soul. Allow these verses and prayers to permeate and move your heart today.
Blow the trumpet in Zion,
declare a holy fast,
call a sacred assembly.
Gather the people,
consecrate the assembly;
bring together the elders,
gather the children,
those nursing at the breast.
Let the bridegroom leave his room
and the bride her chamber.
Let the priests, who minister before the Lord,
weep between the portico and the altar.
Let them say, “Spare your people, Lord.
Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn,
a byword among the nations.
Why should they say among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?’” (Joel 2:15-17 NIV)
Collect for Ash Wednesday
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. (Collect for Ash Wednesday, Book of Common Prayer)
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness;
in your great compassion blot out my offenses.
Wash me through and through from my wickedness
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you only have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight.
And so you are justified when you speak
and upright in your judgment
Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth,
a sinner from my mother’s womb.
For behold, you look for truth deep within me,
and will make me understand wisdom secretly.
Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure;
wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.
Make me hear of joy and gladness,
that the body you have broken may rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence
and take not your holy Spirit from me.
Give me the joy of your saving help again
and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.
I shall teach your ways to the wicked,
and sinners shall return to you.
Deliver me from death, O God,
and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness,
O God of my salvation.
Open my lips, O Lord,
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
Had you desired it, I would have offered sacrifice;
but you take no delight in burnt-offerings.
The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
(Psalm 51, Book of Common Prayer)
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says,
“In a favorable time I listened to you,
and in a day of salvation I have helped you.”
Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything. (2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10 ESV)
Closing Prayer for Ash Wednesday
Heavenly and merciful Father, as I enter this season of Lent, I come before you with a humble and penitent heart. I know I don’t live the life you desire for me. I know I sin and don’t always follow your path. During this season, cleanse my heart and wash away my sin. Make in me a new heart, full of love for you and a desire to more closely walk in your way. Lead me to daily commit to you and give you my full heart. May this be a season of salvation and new life in you. All this I pray through your Son Jesus Christ. Amen.
Continue with a Lenten Devotional
If you enjoyed this prayer and found it a meaningful way to observe Ash Wednesday, continue your devotional through this season with one of these Lenten devotionals.
Prepare Your Heart is a 40-day Lenten devotional using Anglican prayer beads. The daily reflections and prayers are similar to this Ash Wednesday prayer.
Prepare your heart for Easter by dwelling in God’s Word and opening your heart to more closely follow in God’s way.
Journey to the Cross is a 7-day devotional walking with Jesus through his final week. Each day’s devotional focuses on a key Gospel passage from Jesus’ journey to the cross.
You’ll be guided to immerse yourself deeply in each event of the week, experiencing Holy Week in a fresh way.