Prayer for 22 February (Ash Wednesday)

Preparation

O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.

Hear our voice, O Lord, according to you faithful love,
according to your judgement give us life.

Blessed are you, God of compassion and mercy,
to you be praise and glory for ever.
In the darkness of our sin,
your light breaks forth like the dawn
and your healing springs up for deliverance.
As we rejoice in the gift of your saving help,
sustain us with your bountiful Spirit
and open our lips to sing your praise.
Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Blessed be God for ever.

Matthew 6.1-6, 16-21

Jesus said to the disciples: ‘Beware of practising your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 

‘So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 

‘And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 

‘And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 

‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’ 

Reflection

Jesus said: Beware …

We live in a world that is increasingly controlled by rules and regulations. So many things we used to do are now subject to controls that are meant to protect us. The most basic of financial transactions, many simple household repairs and even our posting of a letter or parcel are accompanied by a barrage of questions that have become increasingly intrusive down the years. 

Of course, those ‘intrusive’ questions are meant to instil within us a sense that we are safe, that we are being protected from all that might harm us. But, do they achieve their aim?

Every day we hear of the misfortunes that befall those who should have felt protected by the seemingly endless catalogue of rules and regulations that have become enshrined in law on the basis that we will be ‘safe’. That catalogue of rules and regulations has, for many, numbed their innate sense of self-awareness and self-reliance. The ingenuity of those who would do us harm seems to be constantly outwitting those who have set themselves up as our guardian angels.

The intrusive questions of the front-line staff of our national institutions are about our physical well-being. Jesus’ word of caution, ‘Beware’, relates to our spiritual health.

Today we are embarking upon our annual pilgrimage through the season of Lent. As we journey towards the events of Holy Week and Easter we should be going through a time of trial that mimics that of Jesus in the wilderness. We are being called to support others, to pray and to fast. We are being called to resist the temptations of the devil, the one who will do everything he can to undermine the spiritual journey that begins today.

In today’s reading Jesus is asking a simple question. As we support others, pray and fast, Jesus is asking us how our chosen Lenten disciplines are bringing us closer to God; how are they enriching our spiritual selves?

Today, and throughout Lent, we are called to pray that our relationship with God might deepen. We are being called to set aside our need for the respect of other people in order that we might truly enter into the time of Christ’s Passion, and then the joy of his victorious resurrection.

As we go forward through our Lenten pilgrimage, may Jesus’ word of warning ring in our ears: Beware! May we beware all that leads us into the clutches of the devil rather than the loving embrace of God.

Prayers

In penitence and faith let us make our prayer to the Father
and ask for his mercy and grace.

For your holy people,
that they may triumph over evil and grow in grace,
we pray to you, O Lord.

For candidates for baptism and confirmation,
that they may live by every word that proceeds from your mouth,
we pray to you, O Lord.

For the leaders of the nations,
that you will guide them in the ways of mercy and truth,
we pray to you, O Lord.

For the needy,
that they may not be forgotten,
nor the hope of the poor be taken away,
we pray to you, O Lord.

For the sick in body, mind and spirit,
that they may know your power to heal,
we pray to you, O Lord.

For the poor in spirit,
that they may inherit the kingdom of heaven
and see you face to face,
we pray to you, O Lord.

Let us commend the world, for which Christ suffered,
to the mercy and protection of God.

Almighty God,
by the prayer and discipline of Lent
may we enter into the mystery of Christ’s sufferings,
and by following in his Way
come to share in his glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
Amen.

Christ give us grace to grow in holiness,
to deny ourselves, 
take up our cross, 
and follow him;
and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among us and remain with us always.
Amen.