Prayers 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.

A Collect for Peace

Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

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Beginning the journey of Lent

 Seek the Lord and live,
        or else God might rush like a fire against the house of Joseph.
        The fire will burn up Bethel, with no one to put it out. (Amos 5:6)

We begin with Ash Wednesday. It is a time to seek the Lord. Amos was written to a nation in prosperity, but spiritually they were in a spiritual death spiral. Too often we can see outward signs we call “good” and not realize our spiritual condition is not well.

This is why we need Lent. We need to take the time in our prosperity and intentionally examine our hearts. We need the work of the Spirit constantly.

Turn your hearts with intentionality to seek the Lord in this season! Find ways to come aside each day and reflect on your heart and its desire to truly seek the Lord.

Lord, our hearts need examination. Don’t let us fall under the spell of “leading economic indicators” to tell us if things are well with our soul. Be with us in this journey. Search our hearts and let your Spirit bring the cleansing we so desperately need. Let us find joy in the journey. Amen.

The God Who Looks You in the Eye

I will instruct and teach you about how you should live.
I will advise you as I look you in the eye. (Ps. 32:8, NET Bible)

Today is Ash Wednesday. We begin Lent in the Church. (Not all of the Church, but part of the Church. It is our part, anyway.)

This is a day of observance. We come before the Lord ready to walk in submission. It is a time of reflection. We are reminded that we are laid open before God. His gaze is upon us. His gaze will expose our sin and then pour in healing.

Why would anyone avoid this time of year? Maybe because we want to avoid his gaze.

We want his “loving” gaze, but that is not our God alone. That’s a version of God.

Our God is the One who will look us in the eye. Maybe we avoid Lent because we don’t want that gaze.

But without his gaze bearing down on our soul, we don’t really know healing and grace.

Allow his gaze to penetrate in your life today. THIS is your window of opportunity. Do not walk away.

Why Lent?

As a Pentecostal, I am encouraged by hearing about more and more Pentecostals/Charismatics who actually observe Lent in some way. I also understand there are vast numbers who still don’t observe.

More problematic to me, however, are those who almost laugh off Lent and especially Good Friday. They claim some superiority of spirituality by saying righteous things like, “We don’t celebrate a Christ on a cross, we celebrate a risen Savior!” Like Easter is more superior to Good Friday, so just ignore Good Friday. Or, don’t get “so consumed” with it.

Sometimes we’re wary of traditions practiced by the Church that aren’t “in the Bible.”

Over the years I have grown to embrace more of the Church’s rhythm of the “calendar” and less and less of our civil calendar. The rhythms of Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Pentecost are like bass line rhythms that bring me home. They keep the Kingdom priorities in focus.

The best reason I can give for the observation of Lent and Good Friday I just found from a man I deeply admire. He was married to a distant cousin of mine. They served Campus Crusade on college campuses in their early years of marriage and they both had a deep, abiding faith in God. My cousin Ann was someone I looked up to, even though we rarely saw each other at some family functions. When she met Howard and I met him at a family reunion, I knew this was an incredible man of God.

Ann battled cancer a few years ago. They had kids by then and the first go around looked hopeful. Things went into remission. Then, it returned with a vengeance and there was only time left. In those last months as they struggled and prayed and asked God for the miracle and then knew God had other plans, Howard blogged about his deepest feelings. He showed his raw emotions and his deep faith. He questioned God and clung to him all through the storm. Ann passed away on an Easter weekend a few years ago. She was 50, I believe.

I saw a quote from Howard’s book just this week that sums up why I personally will observe Lent and Good Friday as I eagerly anticipate Easter:

“To understand the true meaning of Easter, you really need to be in a cemetery.”

Howard knows the power of that statement first hand. All Christians really DO know the power of that statement, but Howard has another insight that is a gift from God.

Friends, don’t rush through the cemetery. Don’t rush through a time when you must look at the power of the WHOLE event of Easter. It’s not about a fixation on death. It is the practice of truly understanding the deepest power of resurrection.

Preparing Our Hearts for Lent

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. Our church will remember this event for the first time. It’s my first time overseeing this type of service.

It is time for Lent. It is time for preparing our hearts and lives.

23 Examine me, God! Look at my heart!
Put me to the test! Know my anxious thoughts!
24 Look to see if there is any idolatrous wayin me,
then lead me on the eternal path! (Ps. 139:23-24, CEB)

Hear our prayer, O Lord.

Ash Wednesday

1 Listen to my prayer, LORD!
   Because of your faithfulness,
   hear my requests for mercy!
   Because of your righteousness,
   answer me!
2 Please don’t bring your servant
to judgment,
   because no living thing is righteous before you.

3 The enemy is chasing me,
   crushing my life in the dirt,
      forcing me to live in the dark
         like those who’ve been dead forever.
4 My spirit is weak inside me—
   inside, my mind is numb.

5 I remember the days long past;
   I meditate on all your deeds;
   I contemplate your handiwork.
6 I stretch out my hands to you;
   my whole being is like dry dirt, thirsting for you.
(Psalm 143:1-6, CEB)

Lent is a time to reflect. My challenge this year is not just for a time of reflection and examination, but a time for action as well. There is a sense of “harassment” where we feel the enemy is chasing us. I hear from missionary friends who are facing fierce battles on the mission field. There are families in our church and our neighborhood battling tough times and crushing defeats.

I need my heart cleansed. I need my hands clean. Then… I need to get into the battlefield of prayer and lift these dear ones up before the Lord. Lent is not about me. It is about the Body of Christ as well. May we be humble before the Lord… and may we be humble warriors.

Hear our prayer, O Lord.