Has it been a while since you openly and honestly confessed your sins to our Father? When’s the last time you got down on your knees, alone in the presence of our Holy God, and confessed your shortcomings and failures? These first days of Lent are a good time to re-engage this scriptural, historical practice.
Maybe you have a hard time getting started. If so, I would humbly suggest something like this. It’s both a terrible and beautiful experience for me. It’s devastating and liberating. Not easy at all, but needed. Desperately needed.
Block out twenty minutes when you can be totally alone with our Father. Not in the back bedroom of a crowded house; I mean in the back bedroom of an empty house. Totally alone. Nobody around. If you have to go to the shed in the backyard, do it.
Now, physically get down on your knees and physically open your hands with your palms up toward heaven. Now, just sit there in silence for a full five minutes – no cheating! – in the presence of God. After those five minutes, read one of the penitential psalms to the Father out loud. It’s important that you read out loud, that you hear with your ears your own voice articulating these words to the Lord. I’m partial to Psalms 32 and 51, but you could try Psalm 6, 38, 102, 130, or 143.
At this point, I am acutely aware of the presence of God and my own sinful soul. Like Peter, my first thoughts are, “Get away from me, Lord, I am a sinful man!” My feelings are like those of the prophets who proclaimed their own demise in God’s presence. I am ruined. I am dead. I am not worthy. And then I confess my sins out loud to God. And they are many.
I believe the silence and the physical posture of humility and prayer and the holy words of the psalms work together to prime the pump so that what’s in the deepest part of my soul comes gushing out. It can’t be stopped. And it needs to come out. I need to be open and honest about my sins with my loving and forgiving Father. I need to experience his forgiveness and his blessing, his pardon and approval.
You do, too.
Whatever it takes. Don’t let this 40-days of prayer and fasting come and go without spending some time in personal confession to our God.
If you need another suggestion, you might consider the words of this prayer of confession we prayed together with our brothers and sisters at First Methodist during last week’s Ash Wednesday service:
“Most holy and merciful Father, I confess to you that I have sinned by my own fault in thought, word, and deed; by what I have done, and by what I have left undone. I have not loved you with my whole heart and mind and strength. I have not loved my neighbors as myself. I have not forgiven others as I have been forgiven. I have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ serves me. I have not been true to the mind of Christ. I have grieved your Holy Spirit. Have mercy on me, O God, and in your mercy, cleanse me from all unrighteousness. Hear me now, as I continue to confess my sins to you…”
Most Christian traditions begin every worship assembly with a time of corporate and personal confession. We don’t. We have to work on it. Now’s a good time.