As part of my Lenten journey and spiritual practices this year, like in previous years, I am sharing a photo and short reflection each day as outlined by Lent Photo a Day on Facebook. For this Ash Wednesday and first day of Lent, the appointed word is Pray.
I was going through my phone pictures this morning and came across this most recent photo. It must have been from Monday evening. I didn’t even know it was taken. But Allison must have snuck it on us while we were sitting and relaxing in the family room. I am watching my darling daughter who must have seen the camera because she was looking right at it.
For me this is a good picture of what prayer looks like. There are times when things might drive us to stop and reflect. To contemplate and meditate. To be fully present, like daddy and daughter in this one. And there are moments like this which are full and grounded in prayer.
On this Ash Wednesday, as we prepare to be reminded that “We are dust and to dust we shall return,” I am praying for a few things. I am praying for the barista who when I am asked him how he was doing yesterday before I sat down for a visit with local pastors, he said “he’s stressed, and needs prayers.” I am also praying in particular prayers of thanks, and also prayers of hope for a long, full, and abundant life with and for our daughter. This will be her first Ash Wednesday.
Tonight will be the first time where she hears these words, and is marked with an ashen cross on her forehead in the same place that she was marked and sealed with the cross of Christ in her baptism last year. In that moment tonight, whether I am holding her while she receives ashes or am leading the music on the piano or organ, I know it will be a moment of prayer. It will be a reminder of God’s promises and presence. It will also be a reminder of our finitude and mortality.
Whatever your Lenten practices are, and however you observe this solemn first day of Lent, I hope that you find a moment to reflect, be present, and pray. Lean into this season. For God is with you, for you, and loves you. Looking at this picture, I know that Caroline knows that. And I am hopeful she will always know and remember that, just as we do and remember it even with the most somber of words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Let us pray. Merciful God, accompany our journey through these forty days. Renew us in the gift of baptism, that we may provide for those who are poor, pray for those in need, fast from self-indulgence, and above all that we may find our treasure in the life of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Source: Today’s closing prayer is from Evangelical Lutheran Worship, (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2006), page 254.