Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"God, be merciful to me, a sinner!"

Jesus said, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." I take it that this mourning is not a one time occurrence, but that repentance and faith are a regular feature of the Christian life. Our Lord's petition, "Give us this day our daily bread," is followed by the words, "and forgive us our sins." Just as our bodies need daily bread, so our souls need daily forgiveness. Below is a prayer of confession we can use as we deeply mourn our sin against our triune God and our neighbor.

How rarely we confess our original sin! The sin of our nature should grieve and humble us. Our continued waywardness should sadden us. But let us also not compound our sin by failing to believe in the Father's good will toward us in Christ. His mercy is infinite and Christ's blood and righteousness are sufficient to cleanse and cover. As you read this prayer substitute my for "we" and me for "us" and make it a prayer of your heart and mine. --Bill

O eternal God and merciful Father, we humble ourselves before your great majesty, against which we have frequently and grievously sinned. We acknowledge that if you should enter into judgment with us, we would deserve nothing less than eternal death.

We are deeply conscious of the fact that, on account of our original sin, we are unclean before you and children of wrath. Since we are conceived and born in sin, all kinds of evil desire against you and our neighbor fill our soul.

We continually transgress your commandments, failing to do what you have commanded us, and we do what you have expressly forbidden. We all like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way. We acknowledge our waywardness, and are heartily sorry for all our sins. We confess to our humiliation and to the praise of your mercy that our transgressions are innumerable, and that our debt is so great that we cannot even begin to repay. We are not worthy to be called your children, nor to lift our eyes heavenward to you in prayer.

Nevertheless, O Lord God and gracious Father, we know that you do not desire the death of the sinner, but rather that he should turn to you and live; we know that your mercy toward those who turn to you is infinite; and so we take courage to call upon you from the depths of our hearts, trusting in our mediator Jesus Christ, the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.

We pray that you, forgiving all our sins for Christ's sake, will have compassion upon us in our infirmities. Wash us in the pure fountain of his blood, so that we may become clean and white as snow. Cover our nakedness with his innocence and righteousness, for the glory of your name.

Deliver our understanding from all blindness, and our hearts from all willfulness and rebellion. . . . Prepare our hearts to receive your Word, to understand it, and to preserve it. Inscribe your law, as you have promised, upon the tablet of our heart, and give us the desire and the strength to walk in the way of your precepts, to the praise and glory of your name, and to the edification of the church.

All this, gracious Father, we implore in the name of Jesus Christ.

A prayer from the 1976 Psalter Hymnal.

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