Home > Resources for Worship > Seasons of the Church Year > Ash Wednesday
Site Contents
Daily Readings
Bible Topics
Worship Topics
Ministry Topics
Church Year
Theology Topics
New Additions

Ash Wednesday

 A Service of Worship Adapted from The Book of Common Prayer

Dennis Bratcher


[If possible, it is appropriate to have lights dimmed and mainly candles used for illumination.]


Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days*

Lord, who Throughout these forty days,
For us did fast and pray,
Teach us with you to mourn our sins,
And close by you to stay

As you with Satan did contend,
And did the vict'ry win,
O give us strength in you to fight,
In you to conquer sin.

As you did hunger and did thirst,
So teach us, gracious Lord,
To die to self, and so to live,
By your most holy word.

And through these days of penitence,
And through your Passiontide,
Forevermore, in life and death,
O Lord, with us abide.

Abide with us, that when this life
Of suffering is past,
An Easter of unending joy
We may attain at last.


Opening Prayer

Minister: Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all

People: And also with you.

Minister: Let us pray.

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who repent. You are the source of all grace and mercy. Create in us new and contrite hearts, that we who come to you in penitence lamenting our failures and our sins, may receive from you forgiveness, reconciliation, and transformation through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

[Alternate Song: Today Your Mercy Calls Us]

Scripture of the Day

Old Testament: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 or Isaiah 58:1-12

Alternate: Amos 5.6--15

[Optional: Epistle: 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10

Optional Alternate: James 4.1-10]

Minister or Reader: Please stand for the reading of the Gospel.

Gospel: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Alternate: Luke 18:9-14

Minister or Reader: This is the word of the Lord to you.

People: Thanks be to God.


Invitation to the Observance of Lent

Minister: Today we begin a spiritual journey that will span forty days, from Ash Wednesday until Holy Saturday before Resurrection Sunday. In the early days of the Church, the season of Lent was a time of preparation for new converts as they readied their hearts to enter into Christian Baptism on Easter Sunday. Since these new members were to be received into a living community of Faith, the entire community was called to preparation. Also, this was the time when those who had been separated from the Church because of explicit sin would prepare to rejoin the community of Faith.

Today, the season of Lent is a time of prayer, fasting, self-examination, and penitence for all Christians as we prepare to celebrate Easter. Through this forty-day journey, we are reminded that we are totally unworthy before God, that we have nothing with which we can obtain salvation, and that our best efforts at being righteous fall far short. This season reminds us how much we need grace in our lives in order to live a transformed life that reflects God’s love. We are called to renew our commitments and our faith as we continually acknowledge our need of God’s transforming presence with us.

I invite you to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word. To make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now invite God to examine our hearts as we wait silently before him.

Action: A period of silence; in churches with prayer altars or kneeling rails, worshippers may be invited to come forward and kneel at this time; depending on how the following confessionals are done, worshippers may need to bring their worship folders with them.

Imposition of Ashes

[Note: the Confession and Litany of Penitence can be used before the Imposition of Ashes]

Action: If the following confessional prayers and litany of penitence are to be spoken while kneeling at the prayer altar or kneeling rail, worshippers need to bring their worship folders with them.

Minister: Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth: Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality and penitence, that we may remember that it is only by your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life, through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

Minister: People of God, come now in the spirit of penitence, and receive on your head in ashes the sign of the cross, the symbol of our mortality, a symbol of the cost of sin, and yet the sign of our salvation and promise of eternal life.

Action: The minister places ashes on the forehead of worshippers in the shape of a cross; this can be done in silence or with the following words.  If two ministers are imposing ashes, they can alternate the following phrases, without speaking at the same time.

Minister: Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.

[Optional Action: Appropriate music, instrumental only, can be played as ashes are received.]

Action: After imposition of ashes, worshippers kneel at the front. If there is no prayer altar or kneeling rail, they may return to their seats for meditation.

Confession - Psalm 51

Action: People kneeling or standing.

Minister: Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness;

People: in your great compassion blot out my offenses.

Minister: Wash me through and through from my wickedness

People: and cleanse me from my sin.

Minister: For I know my transgressions,

People: and my sin is ever before me.

Minister: Against you only have I sinned

People: and done what is evil in your sight.

Minister: And so you are justified when you speak

People: and upright in your judgment

Minister: Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth,

People: A sinner from my mother's womb.

Minister: For behold, you look for truth deep within me,

People: and will make me understand wisdom secretly.

Minister: Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure;

People: wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.

Minister: Make me hear of joy and gladness,

People: that the body you have broken may rejoice.

Minister: Hide your face from my sins

People: and blot out all my iniquities.

Minister: Create in me a clean heart, O God,

People: and renew a right spirit within me.

Minister: Cast me not away from your presence

People: and take not your holy Spirit from me.

Minister: Give me the joy of your saving help again

People: and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

Minister: I shall teach your ways to the wicked,

People: and sinners shall return to you.

Minister: Deliver me from death, O God,

People: and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness, O God of my salvation.

Minister: Open my lips, O Lord,

People: and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

Minister: Had you desired it, I would have offered sacrifice;

People: but you take no delight in burnt-offerings.

Minister: The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit;

People: a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Litany of Penitence

Action: Depending on context, worshippers may remain kneeling at the front, or kneel where they are seated.

Minister: We kneel before God as a sign of our humility and submission to God.

Action: The minister and people all kneel.

All: Most holy and merciful God: We confess to you and to one another, and to the whole communion of saints in heaven and on earth, that we lack any righteousness of our own, that we kneel before you unworthy of your love. We have often failed to be your people, by our own fault, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.

Minister: We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.

People: Have mercy on us, Lord.

Minister: Too often, we have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us. We have not been true to the mind of Christ. We have grieved your Holy Spirit.

People: Have mercy on us, Lord.

Minister: We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: our pride, our hypocrisy, and the impatience of our lives,

People: We confess to you, Lord.

Minister: Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people,

People: We confess to you, Lord.

Minister: Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves,

People: We confess to you, Lord.

Minister: Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and our dishonesty in daily life and work,

People: We confess to you, Lord.

Minister: Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to bear witness to others the faith that is in us,

People: We confess to you, Lord.

Minister: Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done: for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty,

People: Accept our repentance, Lord.

Minister: For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us,

People: Accept our repentance, Lord.

Minister: For our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of concern for those who come after us,

People: Accept our repentance, Lord.

Minister: Restore us, O Lord, and let your anger depart from us;

People: Favorably hear us, for your mercy is great.

Minister: Accomplish in us the work of your salvation,

People: That we may show forth your glory in the world.

Minister: By the cross and passion of your Son our Lord,

People: Bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.

Action: Minister, standing and facing the people:

Minister: The Lord is patient with us, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance [2 Peter 3:9]. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. [1 John 1:9]  God so loved this world and this people that God sent Christ to reconcile the world to himself. The Good News for you this day is that God pardons those who truly repent and transforms those who trust in God for salvation with sincere hearts.  In the name of Jesus who is the Christ I proclaim the forgiveness of sins to all who have drawn near to God in sincere confession. Know that you are reconciled, accepted, and loved.

Minister: O God, we implore you to so fill us with your Holy Spirit, that those things we do on this day may please you, and that the rest of our life may be pure and holy, lived in the service of others, and that at the last we may come to his eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Minister: Rise, people of God!

Action: The people all stand.

[Optional Song]


We rise again from ashes,
From the good we've failed to do.
We rise again from ashes,
To let you make us new.1
If all our world is ashes,
Then must our lives be true,
An offering of ashes,
An offering to you.

We offer you our failures,
We offer you attempts,
The gifts not fully given,
The dreams not fully dreamt,
Give our stumblings direction,
Give our visions wider view,
An offering of ashes,
An offering to you.

Then rise again from ashes,
Let healing come to pain,
Though Spring has turned to winter,
And sunshine turned to rain,
The rain we'll use for growing,
And create the world anew,
From an offering of ashes,
An offering to you.

*Text and music Tom Conry, © 1978 New Dawn Music; lyrics available in Glory and Praise, OCP Publications, 1997;
1 line modified by Dennis Bratcher; original reads "to create ourselves anew."

Passing the Peace

Minister: Since we are reconciled to God and accepted into His household, we have His peace as brothers and sisters in Christ. Offer the Peace of Christ to one another as brothers and sisters. May the peace of Christ be with you always.

People: And also with you.

Action: Greetings are exchanged.

[Optional: Offering and offertory]

[Optional Action: If an offering is taken, it is followed by the Doxology]


Minister: The Lord be with you.

People: And also with you.

Minister: Lift up your hearts.

People: We lift them up to the Lord.

Minister: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

People: It is right to give our thanks and praise.

Minister: It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth. We give you thanks because you have loved us and valued us even though we are but dust. You have forgiven our sins, transformed us into your people, and filled us with your Holy Spirit so that we may triumph over evil and grow in grace, enabling us to live faithfully as your redeemed and holy people. And so, with your people on earth and all the company of heaven we praise your name and join their unending hymn:

All (can be sung): Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.

Minister: Holy are you, and blessed is your Son Jesus Christ. Your Spirit anointed him to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, and to announce that the time had come when you would save your people. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, and ate with sinners.

By the baptism of his suffering, death, and resurrection you gave birth to your church, delivered us from slavery to sin and death, and made with us a new covenant by water and the spirit. When the Lord Jesus ascended, he promised to be with us always, in the power of your Word and Holy Spirit.

Action: Minister takes the bread and lifts it up, breaking it while saying:

On the night in which he gave himself up for us, he took bread, gave thanks to you, broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and said: "Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me."

Action: Minister takes the cup of wine and hold it up while saying:

When the supper was over, he took the cup, gave thanks to you, gave it to his disciples, and said: "Drink from this, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant, poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me."

And so, in remembrance of these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ, we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving as a holy and living sacrifice, in union with Christ’s offering for us, as we proclaim the mystery of faith.

People: Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.

Minister: Pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here, and on these gifts of bread and wine. Make them be for us the body and blood of Christ, that we may be for the world the body of Christ, redeemed by his blood. By your Spirit makes us one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world, until Christ comes in final victory and we feast at his heavenly banquet.

Through your Son Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit in your holy church, all honor and glory is yours, almighty Father now and forever.

All: Amen.

Invitation to the Table

Minister: All who would come to Christ are invited to come to His table.

Action: Eucharist is offered.

Closing Eucharistic Prayer:

All: Lord Jesus Christ, you loved us while we were yet sinners, and have called us to love others, to bring hope to a broken world. Help us each day to be your people and to live lives of uncommon faith and love. You are the Lord forevermore. Amen.

Scattering to Minister/Benediction

[Optional Song: Be Thou My Vision]

Minister: Go in peace, remembering that you are but dust and ashes and unworthy of being called the people of God. But also remember that you who were no people God by His love and grace has made a people, children of his own household. Let us go forth in humility to be Christ to the world.

People: Thanks be to God!

-Dennis Bratcher, Copyright © 2016, Dennis Bratcher - All Rights Reserved
See Copyright and User Information Notice

Related pages