I offered the below prayer at an Ash Wednesday service at First Covenant Church in Seattle, WA. The theme of the service was “Awareness and Unity With Our Global Neighbors,” and the guest speaker, Holly Hight of Bread for the World, gave a wonderfully personal and profound reflection on the topic “Hunger… As if it Matters.” After the speaker and this prayer, I and the two pastors at First Covenant performed the rite of putting ashes on foreheads as people came forward to be marked and for personal prayer. It was a moving evening and the start of an important season. As pastor Mark Nilson said on the Sunday morning following our experience on Ash Wednesday, “Lent is not just a ho-hum, downer of a season, it is an amazing time in the church year because we are invited to repent and to start anew – we are given a second chance! I love Lent!” He ended the sermon by exclaiming, “Happy Lent, Happy Lent, Happy Lent!” So, Happy Lent to you.
“We come before you today to remember who we are.
We come before you today to remember whose we are.
We come before you today to be marked by you.
We come before you as your people, members who are spread around the globe and separated by geography, but united through one faith and in one body. We ask for your Spirit of truth and promise to be with our community on our journey to do justice and love mercy, to renew us and to give us wisdom.
Give us eyes to see the global suffering that is not always in the news; mark us with your eyes, oh God.
Give us ears to hear the individuals crying through the cracks of complex systems; mark us with your ears, oh God.
Give us feet to respond in small and large ways in our community and in our world; mark us with your feet, oh God.
Give us hands that are open to receive and learn alongside those for whom we advocate; mark us with your hands, oh God.
We come before you today to remember who we are. We come before you today to remember whose we are. We come before you today to be marked by You.
We come before you with our prayers, our hopes, and our pain alongside those who are suffering in hunger and in poverty around the world. We ask for your Spirit to be with the hungry in our midst, those in pain in our own congregation, those with cracks in their families or their health, those who are alone or grieving private pain.
Even as Christ set his face to go up to Jerusalem, so, our Father, we would renew our discipleship and take up the cross and follow him. Help us to make the cross meaningful by putting right before self-interest, our neighbors before ourselves, principles above reputation, and love for you above love of self, through Christ Jesus our Lord.
We come before you today to remember who we are.We come before you today to remember whose we are. We come before you today to be marked by You.”
(“Even as Christ…” paragraph is excepted from “The Covenant Book of Worship,” an Invocation for Lent, p.58. The rest of the prayer was written by Liz VerHage; some portions of the prayer were first published in Bread for the World’s 2006 Offering of Letters kit as a congregational resource.)