Rev. Janet Doyle
Elmer Presbyterian Church
Ash Wednesday Service
March 2, 2022
Scripture: Isaiah 58: 1-12; Psalm 51; Matthew 6: 5-14
Sermon: Time To Pray
Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent in the church. It takes place 46 days before Easter; 40 days of repentance and fasting and 6 Sundays as feast days.
Pope Gregory also instituted the tradition of marking people’s foreheads with ashes in the shape of a cross.
Ash Wednesday is not specifically mentioned in the Bible; however, from Biblical times, sprinkling oneself with ashes has been a mark of sorrow for sin. Several places in the Bible mention people repenting of sin in dust and ashes; for example, Mordecai, Esther’s relative (Esther 4:1), Job (Job 42:6), the people of Nineveh (Jonah 3:5-6), and Daniel (Daniel 9:3-4). Repentance in dust and ashes often was accompanied with fasting during Bible times.
The type of fast Jesus himself endorsed is found in Matthew 6:16-18, “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to people to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”
Jesus is calling his followers to avoid making a show when fasting and praying, but rather to help those in need. Jesus is interested in the condition of the heart and not merely external appearances or show. As you think about your life, where is your heart? What do you need to confess during this time of Lent? Are you “others” focused or “self focused”? Do you desire to have true repentance and fasting as mentioned in Psalm 51, or are your actions merely based on outward traditions?
Today is the day that we can begin again, and God can create in us clean hearts and will renew a right spirit within us.
It is Time to Pray and talk to God about what is happening in our lives and in our world.
There is something called the ACTS prayer format that stands for the different kinds of prayers. ACTS stands for ADORATION, CONFESSION, THANKSGIVING, and SUPPLICATION.
A: ADORATION PRAYER is giving praises to God; praising his name; and all God created.
C: CONFESSION PRAYER is what we are thinking about tonight. As a believer in Christ, being right with God through confession and forgiveness is essential for effective prayer.
1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
Say to God tonight, “I have sinned against you, God! What I have done is wrong. Please forgive me, purify me, and restore my joy and cleanse me.” (Psalm 51: 4, 10-12)
From Daniel 9:4-19 we can pray, “Our great God, we have not done right. As Your people, we have not obeyed Your Word and we are sorry. Our nation has rebelled against You. Heal us in Your mercy, forgive us and make us clean.”
T: THANKSGIVING PRAYER is giving thanks to God for all we have and all the blessings of our life.
S: SUPPLICATION PRAYER is praying for the needs of others and for ourselves.
Prayer is something we can always do more of and especially with all the needs in our own lives and the needs of those around us and around the world.
As we think about prayers of Confession tonight, we realize that repentance and confession are the white flags of surrender we wave to declare the death of our pride and the submission of our will to God’s will.
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Awareness and conviction of sin is the beginning of real Spirit-filled living. Repentance and confession keep us on track in our journey with Jesus and are at the heart of an open, growing relationship with God—outward signs of our inward desire to know and love God more fully.
Repentance, says Oswald Chambers, “is the bedrock of Christianity.”
The Hebrew word for repent means “to turn away” or “to return,” while the Greek word carries a sense of changing one’s mind or purpose. So, repentance is turning away from what we are thinking or doing, renouncing behaviors harmful to ourselves or others, surrendering those courses of action contrary to God’s will and purpose, and returning to a loving and obedient relationship to him. True repentance changes our life, our habits, our thoughts, our attitudes, our actions, our outlook, and our behavior.
Repentance gets us back into spiritual shape with God.
Tonight and this Lent is the time to start to get into spiritual shape. Tonight begins our Spiritual Stretching Exercise.
As Psalm 139:23-34 says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Through a lifetime of repentance and confession, the Holy Spirit helps us crucify the sinful nature in us so that we can live by the Spirit and keep in step with the Spirit. (Gal 5:24-25)
It is “Time to Pray.” Pray out loud to God if possible because it is just like talking to a friend. Read the Psalms or other scripture or devotional as you pray. You also can pray wherever you are, in the car, doing dishes, laundry or making dinner. You may have a special chair or room where you like to pray. You may like to pray as you walk on the beach or in the woods or walking around your neighborhood as you walk your dog.
This Lenten Season take time to pray because now is the Time to Pray for our own lives, our relationships with others, and for the needs of our world.
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Make prayer a priority in your life. Set a time each day, wherever you are to pray to God and keep your relationship growing with your Creator and Lord.
Remember the flow of the Holy Spirit is closely connected to prayer.
Jesus prayed when his life was crowded and draining.
Jesus prayed when he faced important choices.
Jesus prayed when he was sad or frightened.
Jesus prayed when he needed strength for his work.
Jesus prayed when he was concerned about people he loved.
Jesus prayed when he faced problems.
Do what Jesus did. In these next six weeks of Lent, talk to God and listen to him and you will find forgiveness, reconciliation, peace, renewed hope and God’s love poured upon you.