There’s a chill in the air as we come to what may for some be the most challenging section of our Morning Prayers.
We are truly sorry. In your mercy, forgive us. Help us to amend our lives; that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your name. Amen.
I was reading yesterday on an internet site that more people than ever have taken to book reading during the pandemic, and it identified the ten most popular titles sold recently on Amazon. One book caught my attention, not for its title “Blood Orange”, but for the strap-line on the front cover: “I know what I’m doing is wrong. But I just can’t stop.” Paul in his epistle to the Romans, expresses a similar comment:
For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.Rom 7. 19
This problem has affected human beings of all generations; is it how we sometimes feel about some secret obsession in our own lives?
When we come to confession, it can become a routine listing of our failings, repeated every day. However, in the prayer, we are called to make a threefold response:
Firstly, to be honest and specific; truly sorry, and not just expressing regret. How difficult it is for our politicians to take responsibility for failure. Often expressing “regret” is an insufficient response for those who have been injured by inappropriate words or behaviour, or hurt as a result of an unwise decision. Likewise, we are encouraged to both admit and be prepared to be accountable for our shortcomings.
Secondly, are we prepared to name the issue, if necessary out loud, and ask for forgiveness? Most matters can be dealt with during our times of intimacy with our Heavenly Father. However, in certain circumstances, a more public admission of failure may be needed in order to rebuild relationships. Painful to do, but ultimately we will be respected for it. There may also be things of which we are unaware. The Psalmist expresses it thus:
But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults.Psalm 19. 12
Finally, we are expressing a willingness to change our lives. I am reminded that the term “repentance” in the Bible is not just about expressing sorrow for failing, but involves a changing of attitude that results in a turning around into a new direction in life. Paul, in his defence of his faith to King Agrippa, expressed it this way:
I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds.Acts 26. 20
James, in his epistle is very blunt about the need for reality in our faith. In considering how God’s Word speaks to us, he uses the analogy of a mirror which reveals our true nature – and we can ignore what we see, or change our mindset and behaviour. He expresses the confession process in another way:
Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.James 4. 8-10
If we take this seriously, it will release us to take renewed delight, living fulfilled lives within God’s will. Our regenerated desire will be to walk in fellowship with our God, and bring His name into good repute through our clean-living.
We have thought this week about our side of the confessional bargain. Thanks be to God, that he has provided us with an absolute covenant that all our sins have been dealt with – once and for all!