At the WorshipGod06 Conference on Friday night, we read through a public confession of sin, based on a number of the ten commandments. The purpose was not to “grovel in our sin,” but to heighten our awareness of and gratefulness for what Jesus accomplished at the cross. We followed up this confession with Scriptures and songs that celebrated the full forgiveness provided in the substitutionary sacrifice of the Savior. In essence, we preached the Gospel to ourselves.
We excel at justifying, minimizing, psychologizing, and denying sin and its effects. But regardless of how we try to avoid it, we can’t escape the reality that every sin is an act of cosmic defiance against a supreme, holy, and just God. Here is what we called to mind (I recited the words in italics):
Holy and righteous God, we confess that like Isaiah, we are a people of unclean lips. But it is not only unclean lips we possess. We are people with unclean hands and unclean hearts. We have broken your law times without number, and are guilty of pride, unbelief, self-centeredness and idolatry. Affect our hearts with the severity of our sin and the glory of your righteousness as we now acknowledge our sins in your holy presence.
We have had other gods before you.
We have worshipped and served the creature rather than the creator.
We have sought satisfaction in this world’s pleasures rather than in You.
We have loved to praise our own glory more than yours.
We have taken your name in vain.
We have prayed religious prayers to impress others.
We have uttered your name countless times without reverence or love.
We have listened to others use your name in vain without grieving.
We have murdered in our hearts.
We have often destroyed our neighbor with our tongues.
We have been quick to uncharitably judge others.
We have considered revenge when we were sinned against.
We have committed adultery with our eyes.
We have loved temptation rather than fighting it.
We have lusted after unlawful and immoral pleasures.
We have justified our lusts by using the world as our standard.
We have stolen what is not ours and coveted what belongs to others.
Our lives overflow with discontent, ungratefulness, and envy.
We have complained in the midst of Your abundant provision.
We have sought to exalt ourselves through owning more.
We have lied to you and to others.
We have told distorted truths, half-truths, and untruths.
We have despised the truth to make ourselves look better.
Even in our confession, we look for ways to hide our guilt.
O God, we have sinned against your mercy times without number. We are ashamed to lift up our faces before you, for our iniquities have gone over our heads. If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? How shall we answer you? We lay our hands on our mouths. We have no answer to your righteous wrath and just judgment.
We have no answer. But God Himself has mercifully provided one for us.
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Is. 53:6)
Great prayer! I hope your readers print it off to use as a springboard for their own prayers of confession. I know I will. Thanks! In Christ,
God really used that time on Friday night in my life in a significant way. The Holy Spirit was so kind to convict my heart of a very self-righteous pattern in my shepherding role at my local church. I was broken over the reality that as I watch for souls and see their need for progress in sanctification that I often think of them in self-righteous way. Like, “Why doesn’t so and so see their folly?” or “How could they be so blind to their weakness?” All the while I am just as blind and callous to the manifestations of my own flesh. God was so kind to bring specific instances of doing this in my mind and even remind me of things I shared with my wife about people I was “burdened” for.
That night I confessed my sin to God, claimed the promises of forgiveness purchased by the atoning death of Christ and repented. Afterwards I sought restitution with my wife and asked her forgiveness for talking about it the way I did. I shared this in confession at our men’s accountability group today and asked for prayer and accountability.
What a means of grace the law can be as it reveals our sin and drives us to the cross of Jesus Christ! This is not just for conversion, this is for life.
Thanks for this post because upon reading it I was reminded of the Spirit’s gracious work in my life that night!
Thank you for this excellent example of a prayer of corporate confession. As a Worship Pastor, I have been convicted in recent months to begin incorporating regular times of confession in our worship services, but have been unsure exactly how to go about it. This wonderful example gives me a good idea of what I need to do. Thanks again.
I really appreciated this portion of Friday night. Thanks for your thoughtful leadership in this, Bob. God used it in many ways in my heart, specifically to reveal to me areas where I was not willing to forgive completely the sins of another and was instead continuing to condemn. What a humbling moment, but so helpful. Thank you. Jessica
The time of reading this confession was yet another example of how well we were led at the conference. Thank you so much for all of your hard work.
I did have a question regarding the confession reading. I thought it worked very well to split the words up between yourself, the men, the women, and then all of us together. What thoughts were behind approaching it this way, and why do you think it was so
Thanks for your encouragement and question.
I’ve found that when we read anything corporately, there can be a tendency to get more caught up in trying to stay together than in focusing on the meaning of what we’re saying. By mixing it up – me, men, women, everyone – we were able to speak from our own hearts as well as listen to other varied voices confess our sinfulness. Changing who speaks also gives a little breathing (thinking?) space between the lines. Of course, during the conference we also read a prayer from the Valley of Vision corporately and it seemed to work fine.
My dad went to the conference, and really appreciated this time of confession. I’m curious, which songs did you choose to sing following this time (that focused on full forgiveness in Christ)? Thank-you for your efforts…
We sang The Precious Blood before the confession, from the Valley of Vision CD. Afterwards, we sang
“Afterwards we sang….” what? I’d really like to know and where did you go after that. i.e. was this towards the end of the corporate worship time or the beginning?
Where did the confession come from? Did you guys write it, or did it come from a resource or Patristic?
James, we wrote it.
Hi Bob – would be great to know what you sang (or what theme the song was) after the corporate confession of sin. My pastor has reached Exodus 20 in the preaching so I’m doing some research to see what are helpful ways to plan the gathered worship with the 10 Commandments in mind. Thanks!
William, we sang The Precious Blood from Valley of Vision. You might also do Now Why This Fear from The Gathering.
Hi Bob, This is a great prayer for a corporate gathering. We are having a special church prayer time this weekend. Is it ok if we use these prayers?
We are an Anglican church in Hobart, Australia.
I would use it as the leader introducing each area, with response from the congregation and allow time for silent prayer as well.
Bill, absolutely feel free to use it. I pray it serves you and your church.
Hi Bob, I’m glad I found this prayer today and I really needed it for corporate family confession. Is it OK if I also use most of your wordings? I had to add some things that I feel convicted in and is it OK to publish it on my blog site? I will credit you as the original author and will also give your URL. Thanks.
Pinky, feel free to go ahead and use the prayer. No attribution necessary.