Ash Wednesday is one of the most recognizable Christian commemorations each year, especially considering that it involves a very visible practice of believers placing ashes on their foreheads.
Read Also: Discover the History of Ash Wednesday
But what is Ash Wednesday, what does it commemorate — and what are some Ash Wednesday prayers we can utter to help us better focus in on this powerful day?
Ash Wednesday: A Quick Recap
Many people have seen the gray smudge of ash on Christians' foreheads, but some might not realize its meaning. Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent, an annual celebration centered around Jesus’ biblical fasting in the wilderness, which is recounted in Matthew, Mark and Luke. It is meant to remind us of our need for Christ as we look toward Easter.
Lent is a 40-day period where people pause and make similar sacrifices. You'll hear people give up a variety of things, including candy, chocolate and other elements in an effort to observe and honor their faith. Ash Wednesday is merely the start of this season, with the ashes marking its commemoration.
Lent is described by Merriam-Webster as “the 40 weekdays from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday observed by the Roman Catholic, Eastern, and some Protestant churches as a period of penitence and fasting.” You can read more about lent and the history of Ash Wednesday here.
And if you're looking for an Ash Wednesday quote that perfectly encapsulates the day, consider a Bible verse: Psalm 51:10. That verse (NIV) reads:
"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me."
Ash Wednesday Prayers
Considering that Ash Wednesday — which will take place on February 17, 2021 — and Lent focus us on repentance, prayer and confession, we wanted to offer some powerful Ash Wednesday prayers that you can consider during this important time of reflection.
Ash Wednesday Prayers for Forgiveness
As we consider Ash Wednesday prayers for forgiveness, here is an example of an invocation worth saying:
Lord, as we look toward Easter, help me to focus on forging a deeper relationship with You. Lord, give me the strength and courage to look within myself to see the areas that need repairing. Please make me more like You, and forgive me for my sins [offer specifics]. God, thank You for all You do for me. Please guide me. In Jesus' name, Amen.
This focus on forgiveness is essential during this season. In addition to this prayer, an Ash Wednesday quote about forgiveness comes from Ruth Haley Barton gives us even more to reflect on:
"The real question of the Lenten season is how will I clear out the junk and garbage in my life so that I can be restored to God in some fresh way? What are the disciplines that will open up space for God to create a clean heart and new spirit in me?"
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Prayers for Strength
Lent typically marks a time of giving something up. This Ash Wednesday invocation is an opportunity to seek strength from God. Depending on what you're giving up, you might need it!
God, please give me the strength during this season of Lent to carry through with my pledge not to [insert pledge]. Please help me to honor You and my faith by holding strong throughout and in moments of weakness and help me to turn to You for strength. Thank You for all You do in my life. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.
Ash Wednesday Prayers of Confession
What better time to consider confessing sins, admitting struggles, and asking God for guidance? Here is one of the Ash Wednesday prayers that will help you along that path:
Lord, I want to lift my struggles up to You today. You know my heart. Please guide me and help me to move past these issues [insert specific issues you're facing]. Please give me the strength to live for You and to die to myself. Please give me hope and a strong will so that I might honor You. God, I know I am imperfect, but through You anything is possible. Forgive me for my sins and guide me into a closer relationship with You. In Jesus' name, Amen.
1 John 1:9 (NIV) offers yet another Ash Wednesday quote about confession that inspires us with powerful truth on our journeys to embrace Christ's forgiveness. The scripture reads, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."
Ash Wednesday Prayers for Hope
And finally: consider a prayer of thanksgiving and hope:
Lord, Easter is a time for new beginnings. Please show me the areas of my life that I need to mend, the areas where I need to improve and the path forward toward accomplishing these goals. Thank You, Jesus, for all You have done for me. God, give me the strength to find new hope and set me on a new course forward to live the life You have for me. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.
We hope these Ash Wednesday prayers helped inspire you on your faith walk. Whether you celebrate Ash Wednesday or simply wish to reflect on the grace and redemption found in Christ, we hope this article was helpful. Want more Bible content and inspiration? Sign up for the Pure Flix Insider newsletter!