I did not grow up in such a church tradition. It was not until after seminary that I came across the Prayer of Confession in worship. I struggled with it. Why are we putting attention on our guilt in the middle of worship? I was experiencing this prayer as inviting me to feel bad, negative about myself. With this understanding of the prayer, I did not like it. Because I feel that worship needs to renew hope in us, I did not like writing them. I did not like having them in the worship service.
Then, I began to dive into the spiritual practice of personal responsibility. The more I acknowledged my responsibility for what is happening in my life, the more I began to see the importance of the Prayer of Confession.
Prayer of Confession as an act of communal responsibility
The Prayer of Confession offers us an opportunity to take responsibility for cooperative actions in the world. It invites us the remember that we have responsibility for the injustices in the world. Somehow, our actions or inactions are contributing to the injustices that we see, from racism and homophobia to poverty to immigrant injustices.
It reminds us that we have the power and responsibility to transform these injustices. As Micah 6:8 states, “God has told you what is good. What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with our God.” (NRSV) As citizens of this world, we must step up and do the work to create God’s Realm of Compassion here on Earth. Sitting back quietly and allowing others to do the work, is abdicating responsiblity. We can no longer put the blame for the lack of justice out there on someone else.
We have a voice and a vote. Therefore, we have a responsibility to create for the greater good of our neighbors, the world, and the Earth.
Experiencing the Prayer of Confession
I am currently embarrassed to be an American citizen. Each morning I awaken to greater and greater injustices. It would be easy for me to say, “Well it is not my fault. It is the fault of those who did not vote. Or it is the fault of those who votes for Trump.” I could create numerous excuses to put the responsibility of what is happening in our country out there, pushing it away from me.
Personal responsibility and the Prayer of Confession asks me not to. They are inviting me to acknowledge that I am part of these injustices if I am not working to bring an end to them. Transformational Prayers of Confession invite the spiritual community to acknowledge their part in the injustice, while at the same time, step into the hope that through partnership with Spirit we can and will transform injustice into a Just Compassionate World.
Where do we find hope in the Prayer of Confession? Assurance of Grace always follows the Prayer of Confession, reminding us of God's transforming Love. Sure we missed the mark this week. Maybe we did not raise up our voices as we could have. We have remained silent in the face of that specific injustice. However, because of God’s transforming merciful Heart we are forgiven and invited to recommit ourselves to the work of justice, grace, mercy, compassion.
It is a powerful moment in which we are invited to experience the unconditional Love and Power of a Just God.