Why Ash Wednesday?
Growing up in a nondenominational church, I always wondered why the Catholic kids came to school with ashes on their foreheads. I viewed Ash Wednesday as one of those Catholic practices that wasn’t really important to Protestants. It wasn’t until college that I looked at church history with an open mind and realized that there were Catholic practices that could really add depth and meaning to my Christian faith.
Ash Wednesday is one spiritual practice that can add depth and help prepare us for the season of Lent. What is Ash Wednesday all about? Here is a great article which explains Ash Wednesday from a Catholic point of view. The practice of putting ashes on the body goes back to a Jewish practice which can be seen in a few places in the Old Testament (see Daniel 9). We place ashes on our foreheads to show our repentance and mourn our sinfulness. It also makes us aware of our own mortality. Understanding and acknowledging our sinfulness is essential to recognizing our need for a Savior.
Personally, one of the spiritual practices that I do to remind me of my sinfulness and need for a Savior is known as the “Jesus Prayer.” Here is how I practice it:
- First I sit in a quiet room and get into a comfortable position
- I close my eyes and slow my breathing which helps me concentrate
- I say the phrase, “Lord Jesus Christ” and inhale slowly
- I say the phrase, “Son of God” and exhale slowly
- I say the phrase, “Have mercy on me” and inhale slowly
- I say the phrase, “A sinner” and exhale slowly
- Then I repeat this as long as I feel led and think about the words as I say them
Try it and see how it focuses you on your sinfulness and need for a Savior. May this Ash Wednesday not be just an ordinary day, but one in which we recognize our sinfulness and understand God’s love for us in spite of what we do.