Arts & Faith: Lent—Ash Wednesday Imaginative Prayer Exercise

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Each week of Lent, we’ll provide an Ignatian prayer for you, inspired by a video from Arts & Faith: Lent.

The video and prayer for Ash Wednesday are based on Matthew 6:1–6, 16–18. The art is John Berney Crome’s Great Gale at Yarmouth on Ash Wednesday.


Prepare for a period of meditation by sitting comfortably, closing your eyes, and breathing deeply for a moment or two. Allow any present concerns to move across your mind and wait off to the side for now.

Storm of the Spirit

You are in a small boat after spending the day alone on balmy waters and below a pleasant sky. It’s been a day of meditation and of remembering. You have reviewed previous months and prayed about the relationships and events that surfaced for you. You feel pretty satisfied with the day, having reached no major decisions or embarked on any new plans. Now you’re returning to shore and home, to the comfort of a meal and a good movie.

But while you are still some distance from shore, a storm forms on the horizon and moves swiftly toward you. These storms can happen suddenly, and you’re glad that land is not far away. But the winds pick up, and you find yourself racing the storm so that you can dock your boat before the quickly rising waves overwhelm it.

Now caught within the gusts, darkness, and sheets of water, you maneuver the boat as best you can to avoid mishap, which means that you can’t simply head straight toward your destination. By now the rain has begun, and you are soaked to the skin. The chill sets in, and you gasp for breath. It seems that you go toward the shore for hours, although it’s probably only 20 minutes.

However, in that time, while dark, boiling clouds surround you and strong winds strike you, the treacherous weather stirs up another storm within you. Now thoughts come to the surface that you had managed to ignore during your day of prayer and reflection on the peaceful water. These thoughts remind you of your greatest faults, your most frightening anxieties, and your deepest wounds. By the time you do reach shore and secure the boat, your face is wet not only with rain but with tears.

It is Ash Wednesday, and the Holy Spirit, like a terrible wind, has reached into your mind and heart and taken hold of the matters most crucial to your well-being and growth. Your own meditations had stayed in safe waters, afraid of what might happen if you pondered the harder aspects of your life. But this storm of the spirit has stirred your deep waters so that you must navigate now through grief, sorrow, regret, fear, faith, forgiveness, restoration, and hope.

As you settle down, dry and warm, in your home later in the evening, you gather courage and meditate now on what the storm has given you. About what must you pray? What kind of help and healing do you truly need?

Concluding Prayer

Glory be to the Father,
and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning,
is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.

About Vinita Hampton Wright 184 Articles
Vinita Hampton Wright has served as senior editor at Loyola Press for 16 years and recently became managing editor of the trade books department. She has written various fiction and non-fiction books, including the novel Dwelling Places with HarperOne, Days of Deepening Friendship and The Art of Spiritual Writing for Loyola Press, and most recently, The St. Teresa of Avila Prayer Book for Paraclete Press. Vinita is a student and practitioner of Ignatian spirituality, and from 2009 to 2015 she blogged at Days of Deepening Friendship. For the past few years, she has co-led small groups through the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises. She lives in Chicago with her husband, three cats, and a dog. In her “spare” time these days, she is working on her next novel.

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