Prayer of Confession
Our church’s worship gathering has an order of service that includes a call to confession, a prayer of confession, and an assurance of pardon. When I lead the prayer of confession, I always anchor my prayer around one of the Ten Commandments.
I do this for a couple of reasons…
First, I want my people to know and understand the Ten Commandments. This is a natural opportunity to teach them. It also helps them learn the various forms that sin can take.
Second, I want my prayers of confession to cover the whole spectrum of sins. If you aren’t careful, you will only confess the sins you struggle with. You don’t want the pulpit to be a personalized confessional booth. This is a corporate prayer.
Third, I use it as an opportunity to introduce the theology of the Westminster Larger Catechism (WLC). I think its exposition of the Ten Commandments is a fantastic resource. I’ll choose a commandment, go to the WLC question on it, and then roughly adapt it into modern language. I use it as guide when I pray in front of the congregation.
Here’s an example:
“Our call to confession comes from 1 John 2:1-2, 'If anyone sins, we have someone who pleads with the Father on our behalf—Jesus Christ, he righteous one. And Christ himself is the means by which our sins are forgiven, and not our sins only, but also the sins of the whole world.'
Let us confess our sins before God and one another. Please join me in prayer.
Though you have and will save us, we continue to struggle with sin in numerous ways every day. We have not served you as we should in word, thought, and deed.
So now we confess those sins, especially as they relate to your eighth commandment: "Don't steal."
According to this commandment…
We should be honest, trustworthy, and fair in our dealings with others, keeping our promises and agreements, returning what doesn't belong to us, sharing generously within our means, and helping those in need.
We should also be wise in managing our possessions, working diligently, avoiding unnecessary expenses and legal disputes, and striving to help others prosper along with ourselves.
But, Lord, how we often depart from doing good and instead break your law!
Instead, we do the things which are forbidden by the eighth commandment.
Things like stealing, including theft, robbery, and receiving stolen goods. We’ve been envious, lazy, and reckless in our spending.
We’ve been dishonest in our financial dealings with others.
We’ve committed fraud, cheated, exploited others, and engaged in many other unfair business practices.
We have knowingly obtained money in unjust ways.
We lied about our hours at work, stealing from our employer.
We have underpaid those who labor for us.
Besides these sinful actions and others, we often harbor ungodly attitudes that also break the eighth commandment.
We have been greedy, excessively attached to material possessions, and plagued by unnecessary worry about money.
Father, we have stolen in so many ways. We ask for your forgiveness and mercy. Forgive our discontented hearts. Teach us to be content with that which You provide through our hard work. We repent of stealing and ask that you lead us in a new life!
If you have sincerely confessed your sins, please receive this assurance of pardon from 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
BTW, this is an example of what we mean in East River's fourth foundational commitment:
"We are committed to being accessible to the everyday Christian."