July 5, 2010

Prayers of Confession

Several years ago, my church had a week-long study that involved different facets of discipleship each night. The night we focused on prayer, we were divided up into groups and sent into rooms all over the church. I was in a room with probably 15 or so other people, led by a woman no one seemed to know. Her name was Yetta.

Yetta led us through the following acrostic:


Adoration was a breeze. We all went around the room, each of us offering a praise to God.

Confession, not surprisingly, was something we all chose to pass on. We're Baptist, for crying out loud. We don't generally confess in public.

So we moved on to the letter "T", and went around the room again, each of use sharing something for which we were thankful.

Then we shifted gears to supplication, and each of us shared a prayer concern. That was easy because we were just completing an interim that had lasted a year. Our pastor of 35 years had retired the previous spring, and although it had not been planned this way, the week-long study fell right before a prospective pastor was coming in view of a call. (Southern Baptist churches are autonomous, and we choose our own pastors, unlike denominations where pastors are assigned to churches.) Naturally, many of us had prayer requests related to the selection of our new pastor.

I assume everyone else thought the same thing I thought at that point - that we were pretty much done.

Yetta had something else in mind though. She was determined to go back to the "C" in the ACTS acrostic...confession.

I remember thinking, "Surely she doesn't expect anyone in this group to confess to some sin in front of everyone else."

It soon became apparent that, yes, Yetta did expect at least one of us to confess to something. (I still wonder if she didn't think that once someone got the ball rolling, she could get all of us to start confessing.)

I had to bite my tongue to keep from saying, "You weren't raised Baptist, were ya?" I didn't have to bite it that hard, though, because I didn't want to do anything to draw attention to myself. I was already thinking of the worst sins I had ever committed, and I was fairly certain I did not have any desire to share them with the group.

Yetta asked, for what seemed like the 50th time, "Doesn't anyone have something they'd like to confess?" I've never been in a room with so many people staring uncomfortably at the floor. (Actually, I feel led to confess that's a lie, but it's also a topic for an entirely different post.)

I was torn between looking at the floor and casting furtive glances at other people in the room, hoping someone would come up with a way to end what was starting to feel like a hostage situation. I was sitting next to one of our staff members, and as he shifted in his chair, I thought, "Thank God, he's about to rescue us. He always knows exactly the right thing to say."

But, no, he remained silent. Uncharacteristically so, now that I think about it.

Again, Yetta suggested that surely someone had something they could confess.

By this point, I was starting to silently pray that God would hurry up and release us from Yetta's reign of terror. As I heard other people talking in the hall - people who had not been held captive - I began to consider confessing what I was thinking about Yetta at that point, but decided that probably wouldn't be the most tactful way out of the room.

Finally, one of the men spoke up, and said that sometimes, in the business world, he might have crossed the line into some gray areas. I'm pretty sure everyone in the room offered a silent prayer of thanksgiving as he spoke.

It wasn't exactly earth shattering, but it was good enough for Yetta, who led a prayer for the young man and his confession, as well as all of our unspoken confessions. Then we all breathed a collective sigh of relief and made a run for the door.

But now I'm going to confess something to you. I don't like confessing to God any more than I liked the idea of confessing to Yetta and the rest of the group. It doesn't make sense since God is omniscient, and omnipresent. He knows every move I make - the things I do right, and the things that I don't. The reality is that I have the same problem that I accuse others of having. Deep down, I'm afraid that I think that God grades on a curve - and that I set the curve. I see sin in the lives of other people, but in my own life, I convince myself that it's not sin. "We all have issues," I tell myself. "No one's perfect."

I don't think I'm alone.We live in a nation full of Christians who appear to judge non-Christians more harshly than we judge ourselves. We think words like "wicked" are too harsh for the sins we commit, but plenty good for everyone else's sins. And we're sadly mistaken.

As followers of Christ, we are called by His name. We are held to a higher standard - the example that Christ set for us. Instead of judging the world, we should be looking in the mirror, examining ourselves. We should be asking God to show us the ways that we fail, and to lead us in the right ways. We should be seeking God with all of our hearts. We should be on our knees, confessing our sins to God. Like Yetta, He's patiently waiting for us to 'fess up.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. ~ 2 Chronicles 7:14


  1. Congratulations, Lady BLogger, first of all!

    Enjoyed your post about confessing. Sometimes, it takes a lot of courage to confess anything - the man in your group, for instance. Sometimes, just admitting/confessing to something helps a person to feel lighter - and to hear a prayer or the words "you are forgiven" whether it is said *for* God, or from someone else - that can be a feeling of great relief. Remember what it is like to sit and stew and worry over something you've done, and the person you offended said, "Oh, it's all right"? You felt better, after hearing that.

    That said, there are many in the Catholic faith who don't like confession, either! I speak from personal experience! Admitting our wrongs publicly (as in your group) or privately is a difficult thing to do - and one that many of us shy away from.

    Really enjoy your posts - congratulations on being featured this week :-)

  2. Great post. I was going to say more, but it was truning into a whole other post in itself. Thank you for writing this though. Its something I need to be reminded of.

  3. I think it's a combination of things that makes it hard to confess, but pride is high on the list, and pride makes it hard to be humble, even before God, who has a front-row seat for all of the things we need to confess in the first place.

  4. I've looked more in the mirror over this past year than I have in all the years combined that I've been able to talk!! UGH!! I can NOT believe it took me so long to figure this out! I too had felt similar feelings......it was easy for me to judge others for what THEY were doing so I didn't have to look inside of ME. Until the experiences started to happen to me, that's when God gave me a NEW set of glasses to look through. As I grow, as I experience, the less judgemental I become. I confess, I still have a few judgemental bones in my body, BUT God is slowly removing those 'attitudes' in my heart. I keep praying for the desire to see others AS GOD sees them. I am so grateful that I've REALIZED I need to focus on me, peel back the layers of the onion, dig down deep - CONFESS - REPENT - RENOUNCE. Thank you so much for your post ~ I loved reading it.


  5. Hi (it's Margaret, isn't it?!)
    As a person who converted to Catholicsm over 25 years ago, I can TOTALLY relate to how you must have felt when asked to confess and verbalize your sins. Confession and the Sacrament of Penance was so foreign to me as a Methodist when I chose to enter the Catholic faith. But I have learned to love and respect the meaning behind it ... while I can't even begin to explain the entire dogma and reasons behind it, I DO know that we consider the very act of verbalizing (out loud to a priest, etc.)our sins and decisions to stray from God's Love is an integral part of the act of healing and forgiveness. It has to do with totally releasing these darkest parts of your soul, so that God can continue to enter in and work within you. Beautiful and poignant posting - very insightful view from another Christian faith! Thank you!

  6. Teri - It's all about learning to recognize the logs in our own eyes, isn't it?

    Pam - Yes, it's Margaret. =)

    I agree that confession is a major part of being a follower of Christ, and it's definitely a learning process - one that takes a long time to learn, at that.

  7. I've been reading "Respectable Sins" by Jerry Bridges, and he confronts the very thing you talk about toward the end of the post. We don't want to label our own stuff sin. At most, we say "I struggle with...." which does a sad job of conveying the fact that we are offending a holy God.

  8. I remember this week...it was a memorable week of insight, learning and truly a foundation for me in my growth as a Christian. The only thing I remember about that particular night (thank God I wasn't in your group!) is that I was placed in a group with my dad. I also remember what the focus of our prayer group was, but that would be for another time :)

  9. i have sat through many uncomfortable prayer meetings like that.
    unfortunately, in non-baptist circles people tend to confess things
    you wish the didn't confess!

    you hit on a good point: why would we ever hold the world to a
    higher standard than we really hold for ourselves?

    1. Lea - I'm glad yo picked this one to comment on. I needed to read it again myself so I could be reminded of exactly what you pointed out. Dang that backsliding!