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prayer of confession: compassionate and gentle God

submitted by Rev. Shannan Vance-Ocampo, Watchung Avenue Presbyterian Church, North Plainfield, NJ

Compassionate and Gentle God,
you have created us in Love to be your people.
As we gather for worship,
we are reminded that we have lost sight of this Gift
and forgotten how to really love you.
We have worshipped other gods,
put our faith in the riches of this world,
and impressed ourselves with misguided power.
We have looked for help in the wrong places
and ignored the extravagances you lay before us.
Send your Spirit to come and breathe its life-sustaining and life-altering presence into us
in these moments of worship.
Send your Spirit of renewal and transformation.
Send your Spirit that up-ends our lives and sets us on a new path.
Send your Spirit, O Lord.
Hear our prayers
and remake us in Your image once again.
We pray these things in the name of the One who rose from the grave.

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  1. Beautiful prayer of confession. More elegant than the one I wrote.
    Curious, however….
    It seems that many prayers of confession, lately, go on a bit past what I would call the “confessing” part. Is it to give the confessor confidence?
    I am curious about the way that some confessions seem to jump to the assurance of pardon in the confession or to a call to some action.
    I would love for some folks to share with what me what is changing and the thinking behind it.

  2. Jarred,
    Good question. I have always considered a confession to be something we do, not because God’s forgiveness is conditioned upon it, but because our praise of God reminds us of our shortcomings. God’s goodness compels us to admit our mistakes. So we confess with the confidence that we are forgiven, even before we utter a word. I think it is fitting that some sense of assurance is expressed within our prayers.

  3. I was taught to write prayers that include “dedication”–like “set our lives on your path” or “remake us in your image” (from this prayer). Not to stop at simply asking for something (including forgiveness) but to go on, as a way to affirm that prayer changes lives lived in the now. It’s basically second nature now, so I hardly think about it. Thanks for asking the question so we can keep thinking together!

  4. It is a great question with great responses. I also have thought that asking God to not only have mercy on us but to change us is another way of confessing our frailty and God’s power and goodness. Once we are in a stance of humility, we can ask not only to be forgiven in the name of the sinless Christ, but we can ask to be re-created by the perfect power of the Holy Spirit to better conform to the image of God. That is one reason I really liked this prayer and adapted it for use in my congregation this week!

  5. Jarred Hammet says

    Thanks for your replies!

    Your responses make we wonder what you then do in the assurance of pardon. (let me know!) I know I can be pretty linear….

    I did check, very briefly, the 1946 Book of Common Worship. In service one, the confession has a bit of what I saw in the confession — (and this is male language – I am using the original text0 — “And O most holy and lovng Father, Help us, we beseech Thee; to live in Thy light and walk in Thy ways; according to the commandments of Jesus Christ our Lord.”
    In service two, there is this: “Grant… that we might live a godly, righteous, and sober life; to the glory of Thy holy name.”

    So, I guess even there, there is an element of “future.” To be recreated, as you said, Eric.

    Funny how I am always learning…. cjh

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