If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
—1 John 1:9
One of the classic spiritual disciplines is confession. We usually use that word to mean we admit our sinfulness.
In my life, the practice of confession has often been reduced to a cover-all phrase like this in my prayers: “Forgive me of my many sins.” It is a handy phrase, because it allows me to sanitize and distance myself from the evil that has been evident in my actions. Rather than recall my struggles with greed, lust, envy, and materialism; I can just acknowledge that I have committed “many sins.”
But when we make a blanket statement about our sinfulness, we have not really advanced our conversation with God; nor have we really taken an assessment of our personal integrity. God is willing to hear us speak about the reality of our actions. He loves us enough to allow us the space to recall the ways we offend him, and he responds by reminding us that he loves us.
The practice of confession is counter-intuitive. We naturally believe that if we start to name all of our offenses, we will fall into a pit of self-loathing as we recall how badly we have behaved. The intent of confession, however, is to help us realize that no matter how often or how badly we have violated God’s standards, every time we name our sin, we can be assured that God’s grace extends to cover our faults.
Lord, I have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed. Fill me with your forgiving grace, that I may know your love. And help me turn from my sinful ways, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
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