Friday, March 12, 2010

Learning to Confess and Repent

The following is the Litany of Penance from the Book of Common Prayer. I encountered it first when Chaplain Mike posted it on February 18 over at Internet Monk. Frankly, we contemporary Baptists (in general) don't do well with public confession or formal prayers. We eschew the former by tossing out platitudes about answering to Jesus alone and we dismiss the latter by supposing there's something particularly holy about spontaneous prayers. Among other things, I find Lent a challenging time for setting those prejudices aside and learning from the thoughtful worship of our "high church" sisters and brothers. And so, I encourage you to meditate upon the following prayer. It is meant for public reading, in "call and response" form. But, I think it remains deeply meaningful in private prayer, as well.

Litany of Penitence

Most holy and merciful Father:
We confess to you and to one another,
and to the whole communion of saints 
in heaven and on earth,
that we have sinned by our own fault 
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, and mind, and
We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us.
We have not been true to the mind of Christ.
We have grieved
 your Holy Spirit.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness:
pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our self-indulgent appetites and ways,
and our exploitation 
of other people,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our anger at our own frustration,
and our envy of those
 more fortunate than ourselves,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts,
our dishonesty in daily life and work,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our negligence in prayer and worship,
and our failure to
 commend the faith that is in us,
We confess to you, Lord.

Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done:
for our blindness to human need and suffering,
and our 
indifference to injustice and cruelty,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

For all false judgments,
for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors,
and for our prejudice and contempt toward those 
who differ from us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

For our waste and pollution of your creation,
and our lack of
 concern for those who come after us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

Restore us, good Lord, and let your anger depart from us;
Favorably hear us, for your mercy is great.

Accomplish in us the work of your salvation,
That we may show forth your glory in the world.

By the cross and passion of your Son our Lord,
Bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.


Steve said...

At first, I was only mildly interested in the prayer book at my friends' Episcopalian church, but when the congregation was led in speaking these lines, I have to admit being awed. A group confession and benediction led by a young lady teared me up. There can be electricity in a group of believers going through these, especially in a time of crisis or mourning.

Christiane said...


In reference to the liturgy prayers, you wrote this: "There can be electricity in a group of believers going through these, "

In my faith, we would ascribe this 'electricity' (good term!)
as an effect of the the 'communion of saints' when two or more are gathered in His Name. It is a prompting of the Spirit that reminds us we are in Christ's Presence as members of the Body of Christ, where we are made one with Him and with one another.