Pastor's Blog

February 12: Prayer for Ash Wednesday and Lent

Reclaimed by Reformed churches in the last few decades, Ash Wednesday is the entry point for Lenten preparation. It is a service rich in ritual and symbolism. Participants on Ash Wednesday come forward for a minister or elder to mark their foreheads with the sign of the cross in ashes, saying the words, “You are dust, and to dust you shall return” from Genesis 3:19. With these words, disciples are reminded of their mortality and, when combined with the sign of the cross, they are also reminded of the hope of the resurrection.

Christians do not receive the sign of the cross to attract attention or to be noticed by others; they receive the sign of the cross to focus on who they are as human beings, bound in death and life to Christ. Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent provide time to explore the mystery at the heart of the gospel that being a Christian means a new life through Christ.

The season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday on February 14th this year.   Lent is the period of 40 days, not including Sundays, prior to Resurrection Sunday. The word "lent" comes from the Latin word for "lengthen," because the days of Lent occur during the springtime of the year, when the daylight hours increase. The period consists of 40 days because the number 40 represents a period of completeness in the Bible: Moses and the people of Israel were in the wilderness for 40 years; Jesus was tempted in the desert for 40 days.  Since the days of the early church, in the decades and centuries after the death and Resurrection of Christ, Christians have regarded the period of Lent as a time for repentance and reflection. Derry invites you to observe a Lenten discipline of repentance and drawing close to God. Pray this prayer asking God to help you turn toward God and stay with God from Ash Wednesday to Easter, to our own death and resurrection.

Truly dust we are, and to dust we shall return;

and truly yours we are, and to you we shall return.

Help this to be a time of turning round and beginning again.

Through the forty days of Lent, help us to follow you

and to find you: in the discipline of praying

and in the drudgery of caring

in whatever we deny ourselves,

and whatever we set ourselves to learn or do.

Help us to discover you

in our loneliness and in community,

in our emptiness and our fulfilment,

in our sadness and our laughter.

Help us to find you when we ourselves are lost.

Help us to follow you on the journey to Jerusalem

to the waving palms of the people’s hope,

to their rejection, to the cross and empty tomb.

Help us to perceive new growth

amid the ashes of the old.

Help us, carrying your cross, to be signs of your Kingdom.  Amen

(by Jan Sutch Pickard, in Traveling to Easter with Jesus as our Guide)

In common calling,

Rev. Stephen McKinney-Whitaker