“But A Portion of Our Transgressions”: A Model Prayer of Confession
Editor’s note: We talk about corporate prayer a lot at 9Marks (we’ve devoted a Journal and an episode of Pastors’ Talk to the topic). So we thought it would be worthwhile to share an example. Below is the prayer of confession given yesterday at Capitol Hill Baptist Church, delivered by Omar Johnson. It helped our congregation see our own sin better and lead us in confessing it, while also teaching us how to confess sin on our own. I hope it will encourage you both for its own sake, and in leading your congregations to pray.
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PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Father, we come, not as those who are strong in faith, but those whose faith is feeble, weakened because we have trusted in ourselves—in our own abilities, in our own strength, in our own intellect—instead of trusting in you.
We have awakened from our beds this morning, and partaken of meals, and moved our limbs, and used our senses with thankless hearts, ignoring you, the Sovereign Lord over every detail of our lives.
We confess that we have thought you to be a little God, and the people of the land to be like giants. We have feared men, rather than God. We have held up and revered people at our jobs, at our gyms, even in our own homes and in this church, to give us praise and fill us with the love that only you can provide.
Father, we admit we have too often set our affections on the things of this world. We have prized possessions, and praised people, we’ve been captivated by books, and entertained by screens, and we have thought you, the God of the universe—who gives life to the dead and calls into existence things that do not exist—to be boring.
Oh, how sick our souls are! But we have refused to come to Christ to be healed. Our souls thirst for you. But we have refused to come to Christ, the fountain of living waters, that we might drink and be satisfied. Father, forgive us for belittling the kindness and mercy of our Savior, for being hesitant to come to him when he is ever so able and willing to forgive.
Lord, we admit that we have failed to trust your testimony about yourself—that you are good, and all that you do is good. Instead, we have questioned your goodness and despised the fact that you have us single, or married to a difficult spouse, or parenting rebellious children, or caring for elderly parents, or suffering through sickness or disease. And rather than viewing these as your means to draw us close, we have allowed them to embitter our hearts, and to keep us from coming to you.
Lord, we confess that we have not followed the way of our Master. We have not imaged Jesus’ love and care for the sick. We have shut up our hearts and stayed away from those we have thought to be unclean. At our worst, we have considered people of different races to be unclean. Of different classes to be unclean. With lesser jobs to be unclean. People we pass by who live on the sidewalks of Pennsylvania Avenue to be unclean. Oh Lord, we have been unclean, but you have touched us, and through the shed blood of Christ, have made us pure. Forgive us, then, for our hard and uncompassionate hearts that have esteemed ourselves better than others, and have not demonstrated your loving character.
Forgive us for our false worship, as if mere words and mere works could please you, instead of worshiping you in spirit and in truth. Forgive us for trying to dress up our grumbling, and gossiping, and discontentment into prayer requests, as if you don’t search the heart and know the motives and intentions of it.
Father, we come before you, these but a portion of the catalog of transgressions we have committed against you. If You, O LORD, should mark iniquities—if you would tally up the number of things we’ve preferred above you; if you would count the number of prideful thoughts, or lustful thoughts, or bitter thoughts, or envious thoughts that have accumulated in our hearts; if you would open the record and judge us for every empty or idle word we’ve spoken—O LORD, who could stand?! But with you there is forgiveness, through Christ Jesus, who was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, and by whose wounds we are healed.
It is in his name we pray.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
Saints, having confessed our sins to our heavenly Father, listen to his Word of comfort:
“When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Ps. 34:17–18)