A Protestant Liturgy for Ash Wednesday


All standing. The service begins with the following greeting:

L – † Grace and peace to you from God.
P – May God fill you with truth and joy.

L – Let us pray in silence for grace to keep Lent faithfully.


L – Almighty and merciful God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all who are penitent;
create in us new and contrite hearts,
so that when we turn to you and confess our sins
we may receive your full and perfect forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Redeemer
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever. †

P – Amen.

The congregation sits

The Proclamation of the Word

Reading from the Prophets: Joel 2:1-2,12-17

Reading from the Epistles: 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10

The congregation stands for the Gospel reading


Reading from the Gospel: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

The congregation sits

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 51:1-17

L – Have mercy on me O God in your great kindness:
in the fullness of your mercy blot out my offences.
Wash away all my guilt:
and cleanse me from my sin.

P – Create in me a clean heart, O God.

L – For I acknowledge my faults:
and my sin is always before me.
Against you only have I sinned
and done evil in your sight.

P – Create in me a clean heart, O God.

L – Create in me a clean heart O God:
and renew a right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence:
do not take your holy spirit from me.

P – Create in me a clean heart, O God.

L – Give me the joy of your help again:
and strengthen me with a willing spirit.
O Lord open my lips:
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

P – Create in me a clean heart, O God.

The Sermon

The priest preaches from any of the Bible readings of the day.

The presider may end with these words:

L – Dear friends in Christ, every year we celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection. Lent is a time to prepare for this celebration.  In order that our Lent may be a time of renewal and growth we begin this season by remembering our need for repentance and for the forgiveness of God proclaimed by Jesus Christ.
I invite you, therefore, in the name of Christ, to observe a holy Lent by self-examination and repentance, by prayer, fasting, self?]denial, and giving to those in need, and by reading and meditating on the word of God.
Let us kneel and in silence calling to mind our sin and the infinite mercy of God.


The Litany of Penitence

L – We have not loved you with all our heart, and soul, and mind, and strength.
We have not loved our neighbours as ourselves.
We have not forgiven others as we have been forgiven.

L – Lord have mercy.
P – Lord have mercy.

L – We have been deaf to your call to serve.
We have been unfaithful, proud, and hypocritical.

L – Christ have mercy.
P – Christ have mercy.

L – We have been self-centered, and have taken advantage of others.

L – Lord have mercy.
P – Lord have mercy.

L – We have been envious of those more fortunate than ourselves.

L – Christ have mercy.
P – Christ have mercy.

L – We have loved worldly goods and comforts too much.
We have been dishonest in daily life and work.

L – Lord have mercy.
P – Lord have mercy.

L – We have neglected prayer and worship, and have failed to commend the faith that is in us.

L – Christ have mercy.
P – Christ have mercy.

L – We have been blind to human need and suffering, and indifferent to injustice and cruelty.

L – Lord have mercy.
P – Lord have mercy.

L – We have thought uncharitably about others, and we have been prejudiced towards those who differ from us.

L – Christ have mercy.
P – Christ have mercy.

L – We have wasted and polluted your creation, and lacked concern for those who come after us.

L – Lord have mercy.
P – Lord have mercy.

The presider and people say together the following confession.

P – Merciful God,
we have sinned
in what we have thought and said,
in the wrong we have done
and in the good we have not done.
We have sinned in ignorance:
we have sinned in weakness:
we have sinned through our own deliberate fault.
We are truly sorry.
We repent and turn to you.
Forgive us, for our Saviour Christ’s sake,
and renew our lives to the glory of your name.

L – Let us pray.

Silent prayer, followed by the prayer of the priest

L – Loving God,
you create us from the dust of the earth;
may these ashes be for us a sign
of our penitence and our mortality,
and a reminder that only by the cross
do we receive eternal life
in Jesus Christ our Saviour.

P – Amen!

The Imposition of Ashes

Those who desire to receive ashes come forward.
The sign of the cross in ash is applied to the forehead of each person with the following words:

L – Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.
Repent and believe the Good News.
God longs for you to be whole.

Or ashes may be distributed in a question and answer form.

Will you turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ? I will.

During this time a psalm, hymn, or anthem may be used.

The Absolution

Through the cross of Christ,
God have mercy on you,
pardon you and set you free.
Know that you are forgiven
and be at peace.
God strengthen you in all goodness
and keep you in life eternal. †


(Legend: L – leader; P – people; – sign of the cross)


Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

5 thoughts on “A Protestant Liturgy for Ash Wednesday”

  1. Mercredi des Cendres
    De ce un ritual atit de simplu este semnificativ pentru intrarea in carême, post?

    “Aminteste-ti ca est cenusa si ca in cenusa te vei intoarce (ca esti din pamint si ca in pamint te vei intoarce). Un pic de cenusa pe frunte este ca si cum am fi marcati de un sigil de umilinta, care ne face sa ne dam seama ca lucurile lumii acesteia de care ne-am atasat atit de mult si cu atita usurinta, nu sunt decit vanitate si goana dupa vint, si ca este momentul sa ne reconvertim la lucurile esentiale, la cele de sus, care exprima adevarata chemare care ne este adresata si maretia acestei chemari care este adresata omului. Ritul acesta nu este un rit de penitenta ci dimpotriva un rit de umilinta liberatoare. Sa ne amintim de Francesco d’Assis acest om liber care s-a liberat de straiele scumpe pe care le purta si de privilegiile care le avea pentru a se casatori cu umilinta si cu o viata de daruire altora.

    Acest act de umilinta ne permite sa intram pe drumul care duce spre culmea Revelatiei Crestine unde vom putea sa ne adapam din nou din fintina mintuiri realizata in moartea si invierea lui Christos.(din Mercredi des Cendres, éditorial de Gérard Leclerc sur Radio Notre Dame, mercredi le 9 mars 201)


  2. WONDERFUL liturgy. And thank you for posting this.

    I miss Ash Wednesday. Danish Lutherans do not have such a church calendar day. The American Lutherans … who were originally made up of Germans and influenced by German Lutheranism keep this holy day.

    I am not sure why Ash Wednesday is not kept. Officially, we entered into Lent after Sunday (at least from what my wife’s translation of the last Sunday sermon/homily).

    Praise be to Christ for His forgiveness!


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