Sunday, January 20, 2008

Corporate Prayers of Confession

I grew up in the Anglican church, but of recent years have been attending Baptist and Pentecostal churches. I'm not even sure what you'd call me now! Anglibaptacostal???? LOL. I do know I love Jesus, and I'm probably more evangelical than pente.

As a rebellious 16 year old I remember really really hating the set liturgy. I could say the words easily enough but the connection between my heart/head and mouth was uncertain. But it struck me yesterday that prayer-wise I'm a bit illiterate. I have feelings about stuff, but not always the words to express them to God in prayer. And the words of one of the ol' prayers of confession came back to me, and I saw in them the words that expressed what I needed to say to God, and had so much theological richness:

Merciful God, our maker and our judge,
we have sinned against you in thought, word and deed:
we have not loved you with our whole heart,
we have not loved our neighbours as ourselves;
we repent, and are sorry for all our sins.
Father, forgive us.
Strengthen us to love and obey you in newness of life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(An Australian Prayer Book, 1978: page 137)

There is another form that I also really liked:

Most merciful God, we humbly admit that we need your help.
We confess that we have wandered from your way:
we have done wrong, and we have failed to do what is right.
You alone can save us.
Have mercy on us: wipe out our sins and teach us to forgive others.
Bring forth in us the fruit of the Spirit that we may live as disciples of Christ.
This we ask in the name of Jesus our Saviour. Amen.
(An Australian Prayer Book, 1978, page 39)

I liked the following points from these:
  • We are affirming who God is
  • We are admitting that our sin is thought, word and deed
  • We are admitting that we've sinned also by what we have omitted to do
  • We are admitting that we haven't loved God as we should
  • We are admitting that we haven't loved our neighbours as we should
  • We are confessing and asking forgiveness (ala 1 Jn 1:8-10)
  • We are admitting that we are dependent on Him to live godly lives
  • We are taking seriously His word that He will forgive us as we forgive others

Generally I had the following thoughts about corporate prayers of confession:
  1. I haven't heard sin talked about like this in church for ages, we focus so much on "triumphant living" and ideas like "the best is yet to come" that I fail to have succinct words that express all that these prayers of confession say.
  2. Despite what I thought when I was 16, set liturgy isn't evil. It might just be a valuable tool for teaching people how to pray Monday to Saturday.
  3. It is good to corporately admit sin, as we are the body of Christ, not just individuals in relationship to Christ. And it reaffirms that idea in Rm 3:23 "All have sinned", places us all equally at the foot of the cross together.

God bless,

1 comment:

FiKaLo said...

Interesting. I can identify with that. I grew up in a Catholic community and recite the mass from start to finish!

I got saved when I was 20 or so, and while I don't normally attend Catholic church anymore, I've found that the times I have gone back, the mass takes on a whole new level of meaning to me. A lot of what they say is so powerful... I think it really sowed the seeds of the Gospel in me, years before I was able to comprehend it.