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Prayer for God's Mission and Lent-Part 2 (Ash Wednesday)
Ashes From Burning a Candle
A Funny Story
I have to share this story. During college I got to know the Catholic priest assigned to the Newman Center at the University of Maine really well. He shared a slip up from a mass on an Ash Wednesday. It was the time of the mass when he was blessing the ashes. As he was saying the blessing he took the “h” of of ashes and replaced it with “s”. He was embarrassed and I laughed at the simple mistake. The funny thing is, I could see myself making the same mistake.
Ash Wednesday is coming up. For the first time in a while, I’m looking forward to it. Writing this series of blogs has given me a renewed sense of what this season is about. I thought this story was a great way to get us started about Ash Wednesday.
The Shape on the Forehead
Ash Wednesday is celebrated, maybe observed is a better word, to remind us of two things. The first thing it reminds us is that we are going to die. Friends, you can’t avoid it. Growing up, my dad the resident tax collector of the family, always said that there are two guarantees in life, death and taxes. The other reminder is why we die. We die because we are sinners. Let that sink in. Ash Wednesday makes no mistake about it. You are going to die because you are a sinner. Even if you have only committed one sin, you are still going to die. (I know, a little dark for the prayer guy.)
Some of you might be asking, “why the cross of ashes on your forehead?” There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is ashes are an ancient symbol of repentance. The second is ashes are usually from the palms from a palm tree, used on Palm Sunday (the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem). It reminds us that victory was turned into sorrow because of the cross. Finally, it is a reminder that we are going to die and decompose. The ashes are put on our foreheads as a symbol of the cross to remind us that Jesus died for our sins.
Funny Summary Video on Ash Wednesday
This year on Ash Wednesday, churches are going to do readings from Isaiah 58:1-12, Psalm 51:1-17, 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10, and Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21. I took the time to read each of these and write what I thought. What I think I will do here is give you a summary and some suggestions. I hope that you will take the time either before or on Ash Wednesday to read and reflect on these passages.
The main point is our motivation and attitude of why we fast, give, worship, pray, etc. Ask yourself are you doing those things so others will notice you? Or is it to bring glory and honor to God. Fasting for Lent is important, but we need to remember why we fast and that this is a way to get closer to God. As we get closer to God, we will be changed. And as he changes us, we are a testimony of what is possible with God.
The other thing to remember from these readings is our sins (ugh, more “sin” - sorry but this is a reality and it is truth). Psalm 51 was written by King David after he was confronted by Nathan about his sin. It is good when we agree with God about our sinful nature. It reminds us of our need for him. Ash Wednesday is a time to confess our sins to the almighty, holy God.
A Lighted Candle
So what does this have to do with God’s mission and praying for it? The church is filled with sinners (me included) and God wants to work through you to make other disciples. Sometimes, our sin gets in the way of that. Taking some time to allow God to work on our sin allows Him to work through us. We can use these stories of God having victory over our sin to help others see who He is. We need to remember that those outside of the kingdom are sinners too. This is the whole reason why God is on a mission - to win as many as he can back to himself.
When I worked for InterVarsity I would fast once a week to pray for the campus. Since I wasn’t eating those days, meal time was used to pray for the campus. You can use meal times to ask God where he wants to use you. You can use meal times to ask God to save your friends and family from their sins (there’s that word again). You can also use those times to pray for the mission of your church and your Pastor. I wonder if God is going to be pleased when he sees more of his children are taking the 40 days of Lent to pray for His mission.
My decision for Lent this is year is fast once a week. I will use meal times to pray for the many things I’m praying for: Like the mission of my church (especially our kids and teens), the United States, and Japan. I will also use it as a reminder that many people around the world don’t get to eat as much as I do here in the United States.
How old were you when you first Grandparent passaway?
Map of the World
How are you going to fast and pray during Lent? What sins do you need confess? How will you repent? How will you observe Ash Wednesday? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below or on the social media site you found this blog on.
It comes down to three things. Pray, pray, and pray. If we do this early and often, we will fuel God’s mission. Revival is coming! PRAY!!