Confession

Hannah Trautwein, Partnership Coordinator

“Most Merciful God,

We confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry, and we humbly repent. For the sake of your son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us, and forgive us. That we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your name.”

I typed that from memory. Not because I’ve known it since I was a little girl, or because I just did a bible study on the confession in the book of common prayer. I didn’t even try to memorize this. And trust me, it’s not because I am some smart person and memorizing is easy for me- that’s not the case either!

I know this from memory, because I have heard it recited once a week for a year. My home church in Charleston, West Virginia recites this confession each Sunday that we meet. At first I thought it was really odd, because I wasn’t used to everyone talking at the same time, and this wasn’t a scripture so I wasn’t familiar with it. But one day as I was praying I got to the point in my prayer where I just wasn’t sure what I wanted to say. I wanted to confess that I had messed up, and needed forgiveness. And so when I didn’t know what to say, this confession came to mind. I realized that I prayed through the whole thing without skipping a beat.

I love each part of the prayer for its uniqueness and applicability to our everyday life.

It starts by addressing God as merciful. 1 John 9 says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” While God is just, he is also faithful and merciful to his children.

“We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone”

This is my favorite part of the prayer because it summarizes all of my thoughts of failure. It feels as if I can say: This is it! This sums it up! We sin in our thoughts, what we think, what we let our mind linger on, and what our innermost thoughts are that are not pleasing to God. We sin also in the things that end up coming out of our thoughts and onto our lips, and in the things that we do. But I love that we remember also, not just the sins of commission: the things that we commit, or do. But we have sins of omission also. The things that we let go, when we shouldn’t. Sometimes we leave things undone.

We have not loved God with our whole heart, and we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.

These are tied together, in Matthew 22:36-39 “And he said to him: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

But the reality is that we do not love God with our whole heart. We are selfish, and think more of ourselves than of him, and in turn, do not love our neighbors as ourselves. Because of this, we come to grips with our sin, and say “we are truly sorry, and we humbly repent.” and ask for forgiveness “for the sake of your son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us”

Because in that forgiveness, and in that freedom, we can “delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your name.”

And that is the beauty of confession, and of forgiveness. When we realize that our joy and God’s glory are not two paths but one. God is most glorified by us when we are most satisfied in him. When we walk in his ways, we come to realize that we delight in him, and that is when he is most glorified through us.