231. REPENTANCE. How do we pray expressing our repentance to God?

Having completed some articles on repentance I thought that it might be helpful to include some prayers that might help those who wanted to confess their sins to God in repentance. Such prayers don’t have to be expressions of brilliant prose or poetry. Nor do they have to be complicated theological treatises. A prayer uttered in sincerity such as “O God, I’m so sorry. Please forgive me!” or even the prayer, “Help!” will reach the Father’s ears and will enable Him to begin a deep work in that person so that they can experience His forgiving love. Any prayer, no matter how simple, no matter how haltingly it comes out, provided it comes from one’s heart, will always get His attention!

When I became a believer way back in 1958 I began to be exposed to prayers from the 1661 Book of Common Prayer used in Church of England and Anglican churches around the world. They were a bit longer than the simple prayers above but as I prayed them over the years I began to see the depth of meaning in the various phrases. I found them helpful in gaining a deeper understanding of the incredible love and mercy of God in forgiving sinners.  Prayer Books have changed over the years but Anglican churches are meant to be based on the theology expressed in the Book of Common Prayer as well as in the 39 Articles of Religion. [NOTE 1]

I would like to share with those who have never seen or prayed those prayers what the words were and also what we had in mind as we prayed the prayers.  I have included below in the 2 columns the actual words of the Prayer of General Confession Prayer [in the left column] and the description of what many of us were doing or thinking as we prayed the prayers [in the right column.] They are from the service for Morning and Evening Prayer in the first table and from the Holy Communion service in the following table. I hope they bless you as they have blessed me over the last 60 years!

THE MORNING AND EVENING PRAYER SERVICES in the 1661 Book of Common Prayer.  These are the introductory words, A general Confession to be said of the whole Congregation after the Minister, all kneeling.”

“ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father, We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep, We confess to God that we have not lived in the ways He wanted us to live
 We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts, We confess that we have lived by our own plans and desires
We have offended against thy holy laws, We confess that we have not fully obeyed God’s holy laws
We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, We confess we are guilty of sins of omission [the good things we should have done but failed to do]
And we have done those things which we ought not to have done, We confess we are guilty of sins of commission [the bad things we did do]
And there is no health in us: We confess that we are sinners at heart always needing God’s grace to live as we should
But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us miserable offenders; We plead for mercy as those who have offended against God and are deeply grieved because we offended Him. [NOTE 2]
Spare thou them, O God, which confess their faults, We plead for forgiveness as we confess our faults
Restore thou them that are penitent, We plead for restoration to a closer fellowship having turned our backs on Him in sinning against Him
According to thy promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesu our Lord: We recognise that God has promised through Jesus that He will have mercy, and that He will spare and restore all those who have sinned against Him and who confess their sins to Him
And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake, That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of thy holy Name. Amen.” We recognise that we need His ongoing grace [and we humbly ask Him for it] to enable us to live lives that bring glory to God

THE HOLY COMMUNION SERVICE in the 1661 Book of Common Prayer

Introductory words. “Then shall this general Confession be made, in the name of all those that are minded to receive the holy Communion, by one of the Ministers: both he and all the people kneeling humbly upon their knees and saying,”

“ALMIGHTY God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Maker of all things, Judge of all men: We confess that we acknowledge God to be both our Maker and ultimately the Judge of all people
We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, We acknowledge and confess before Him that we have sinned against Him in numerous ways. We also confess to Him that we are deeply sorrowful for having done so
Which we from time to time most grievously have committed, We confess that there have been times when we did not live in obedience to Him and to His laws. We confess they were grievous sins in the sense that they grieved Him [and brought grief to us and others as well.]
By thought, word, and deed, We confess that there has been sin in our thought life; in what we have said and in what we have done
Against thy Divine Majesty, We confess that our sin is a sin against the majestic God Himself. [In the words of the prodigal son as he pleads with his earthly father for forgiveness, “Father I have sinned against heaven and against you.”] Every sin is a sin against God. Firstly because we have flouted His laws and commandments. Secondly because we have not turned to Him for His grace to help us overcome the temptation to sin.
Provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us. We confess that sin provokes God’s wrath and anger because it is a breach of love against our neighbour and against God as well. Sin destroys. [Note 3]
We do earnestly repent, We confess that we are earnest and sincere [In Australia being ‘fair dinkum’] in telling Him we are sorry and want to turn from all sin to live for Him always
And are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; We confess that we are heartily sorry [we mean it from the depth of our hearts] that we have done wrong
The remembrance of them is grievous unto us; We confess that whenever we reflect on those sins we realise, to some extent, the impact those sins had on others. So we have a renewed sense of grief that others we sinned against may still be hurting because of those sins. We are grieved too because as believers we realise that we have grieved God’s indwelling Holy Spirit by our sin.
The burden of them is intolerable. We confess that sin brings a burden to those who carry the guilt of sin, BUT
Have mercy upon us, Have mercy upon us, most merciful Father; For thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, Forgive us all that is past; BUT! Having got all those things off our chests by confessing them before Him, we ask God for mercy as the merciful One. We Him to forgive us because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. [Remembering that the ground of all forgiveness is the atoning death of Jesus on the cross for us. Our confession of sin and asking for forgiveness are the means by which we access and experience that forgiveness which is ours in Him.]
And grant that we may ever hereafter Serve and please thee In newness of life, We ask for His grace to be upon us to bring us newness of life, so that from this moment forward we may live to please Him.
To the honour and glory of thy Name; We express our desire that we might live in such a way as to bring Him glory and honour.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” WE acknowledge that all this has to be through Jesus Christ, in His name,  for as Paul wrote in Romans 11:36, “For from Him and THROUGH Him and to Him are all things.”

[NOTE 1.] The words in the Holy Communion service above seem to have come initially from the Order of Communion in 1548.  They are of some interest to me because a Bishop Holbeck of Lincoln [and Rochester] was part of the group of bishops who drew up that service. Whether he was a relative of mine or not I am not sure. But it would be nice to think so! It appears he was a great supporter of Archbishop Cranmer who was the main architect of the Book of Common Prayer services.

[NOTE 2] “Miserable offenders?” Who wants to be miserable? Isn’t being a believer about experiencing the joy of the Lord? Yes! Of course it is! But note that the words are not “miserable believers” but “miserable offenders.” That is how we come to God having recognised that we have sinned against Him [offended Him] and brought grief to Him and to others. Having confessed those sins to Him we should no longer be miserable but joyful, praising Him for His forgiveness and love!  [Whilst continuing to pray for healing for those whom we might have hurt by our sin.]

[NOTE 3] God’s wrath is His settled disposition towards sin and not a sudden flaring up in anger like our human wrath. He hates sin! Why? Because HE ALONE recognises the magnitude of the damage it does to those who are sinned against as well as the damage done to the one who commits the sin. If we could only recognise how gross sin is in the sight of a holy God then we might take more care not to give in to the temptations we face!

Blog No.231.  Jim Holbeck. Posted Saturday 19th August 2017

About Jim Holbeck

Once an Industrial Chemist working for the Queensland Government but later an Anglican minister in Brisbane, Armidale and Sydney. Last position for eighteen years before retirement in 2006 was as the Leader of the Healing Ministry at St Andrew's Cathedral Sydney.
This entry was posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Healing, Prayer, Salvation, Sanctification, Temptations and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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