Today is Ash Wednesday. It marks the start of the 40-day period known as Lent that leads to Easter Sunday. It is typically a time of prayer and fasting and represents the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness before beginning His earthly ministry.
On Ash Wednesday, ashes (from the palms used the previous Palm Sunday) are placed in the shape of a cross on the forehead of believers. During the application of the ashes, the priest, minister, or assigned lay leader will give these words:
Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return. (Genesis 3:19)
Repent, and believe the Gospel. (Mark 1:15).
It is a time of confession and repentance, a time of remembering just how much God has done for us so that we might be saved.
I visited a friend of mine today to receive the ashes and this is one of the prayers that she shared with me:
O Lord my God, You know me better than I know myself. And I come before you now, admitting my deep need of You, for I am lost without your grace. Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my troubled thoughts. Give me true repentance. Forgive me all my wrongs. Transform me by Your Spirit to live for You each day, to love and serve others, and, through the grace of Jesus Christ my Lord, to come at last to heaven. Amen.
I encourage you to spend some time today praying this prayer, or one like it. And I share with you these Words of Assurance and Pardon:
Hear the Good News. The LORD, our God, is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love (Joel 2:13). God hears the earnest cries of the repentant and forgives our sins. Return to the Lord your God. Turn toward our God in the confidence that, through Jesus Christ, your sins are forgiven.