Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season. This morning, I was finishing up reading through Ezra and his prayer toward the end of the book sounded like a good prayer for the beginning of Lent.
Ezra, who has returned to Jerusalem with a group of Israelites that were in captivity in Babylon, heard that the people had sinned. Ezra says, “This news made me so angry that I ripped my clothes and tore hair from my head and beard. Then I just sat in shock until time for the evening sacrifice.” (That’s a pretty intense response to sin!)
Then Ezra prayed …
I am much too ashamed to face you, LORD God. Our sins and our guilt have swept over us like a flood that reaches up to the heavens. Since the time of our ancestors, all of us have sinned. That’s why we, our kings, and our priests have often been defeated by other kings. They have killed some of us and made slaves of others; they have taken our possessions and made us ashamed, just as we are today.
But for now, LORD God, you have shown great kindness to us. You made us truly happy by letting some of us settle in this sacred place and by helping us in our time of slavery. We are slaves, but you have never turned your back on us. You love us, and because of you, the kings of Persia have helped us. It’s as though you have given us new life! (Ezra 9.6-9; read the whole prayer in Ezra 9.)
As we turn toward God, and away from sin, may this Lenten season be an especially transformational experience for all of us!