Confession, Assurance, and the Seven Deadly Sins

Over the last few years, and particularly in the last few months, I have noticed an increase in the discussion about and desire for more times of confession in worship. There was a time when churches were discouraged from “airing their dirty laundry” during worship because confession wasn’t seeker friendly. The corporate act of confession also didn’t seem to fit with our individualistic ideas of sin and responsibility.

I’m not sure what has inspired the change. I suspect that we are increasingly feeling the need for grace, and that’s hard to feel if you don’t first confess. It may also be that we are beginning to realize that individualism doesn’t work. We are interconnected; the church is a community, and we are part of a world that is full of sin.

Whether you are part of a community that has always included confession and assurance in your weekly worship or you are just beginning to include it, the season of Lent is a fitting time to make it a more significant component of worship.

Below are prayers of confession followed by assurances of pardon that correspond with what are commonly known as “the seven deadly sins.” If you would like to use the seven deadlies as a focus during Lent, check out the resources provided here. We also invite you to visit Reformedworship.org (or pull out your hard copy of RW 74) for an eight-week series on the seven deadlies called “A Lively Look at the Seven Deadly Sins.”
—JB

Week 1: Sloth

Prayer of Confession

Lord God, we are a sinful people, and we are often lazy when it comes to our relationship with you. It is so easy to claim busyness, or our inability to manage the time that you give us, as an excuse for not drawing nearer to you. We are often distrustful of your good and perfect will for our lives, and sometimes we treat you as only a passing acquaintance.

Lord, forgive us for our slothfulness and renew in us a desire to have a deeper relationship with you.

Heavenly Father, help us to follow the example of Christ himself, as he sought you out and spent much time in prayer and communion with you. Help us to remember that we will need to give an account of how we spent our time. Help us Lord, to be faithful witnesses of your grace and love in our work and also in our rest and leisure.

Father in Heaven, renew us with your Holy Spirit so that we grow closer to you, and also so that we may know your mind, and knowing your mind, may better do your will.

We ask this of you in the precious name of your Son, Christ Jesus, who gave up his life so that we might have a right relationship with you. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon

People of God, hear the Word of the Lord from 2 Chronicles 7:14-15:

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. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.

And in Acts 13:38-39 we hear God’s Word through the apostle Paul:

Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the Law of Moses.

Week 2: Pride

A Responsive Confession of Sin

Let us come before our heavenly Father in a prayer of confession.

Father in Heaven, forgive us for being prideful people.

So often we think that we are righteous by our own actions, rather than receiving righteousness through the blood of Christ. We do not like to admit that we are weak, and instead we look at the failings of others. We often think that we are better than others, and we expect them to be perfect for us.

Forgive us, Lord.

Forgive us for having an arrogant attitude toward our neighbors in the body of Christ, toward our neighbors who don’t yet know you, and toward those we don’t know but stereotype. We fail to see our neighbors as people made in your image.

Forgive us, Lord.

Sometimes, Lord, in our quest for perfection we fail to use the gifts you have given to us. We are afraid that others will see us as less than perfect, forgetting that only you are perfect.

Forgive us, Lord.

Forgive us, Lord, for our pride. Help us to see ourselves and our neighbor through your eyes—the eyes that looked at the world from the perspective of the cross.

Forgive us, Lord. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon

Leader: Congregation, let us share the Word of the Lord from Philippians 2:

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

People: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Week 3: Gluttony

Prayer of Confession

Lord, we confess to you that we do not have the mind of Christ with regard to food and drink.

With all of the food choices around us, we can hardly think about skipping one meal. We confess that the thought of you spending 40 days in the desert without food doesn’t even feel real.

We are a wealthy people with ready access to food and drink, yet we are part of a society that mismanages the gift of food. We often eat and drink more than our share, and we consume more than the amount that is healthy for our bodies, the temple of your Holy Spirit. We are sometimes grudging when it comes to sharing with those who have less.

Forgive us for being self-righteous and judgmental when we consider those who struggle with food issues. You tell us clearly in your Word that you are the judge, not we. Give us compassion for one another.

We confess that we often care less for the Word of God than our loaf of bread, and we take comfort in food, rather than in you, Heavenly Father. Forgive us when we put food and drink on the throne that is rightfully yours.

Forgive us, Lord, in the precious name of him who resisted temptation to the end, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon

Congregation, hear the Word of the Lord from Matthew 4:3-4. In this passage, Jesus has just spent 40 days in the desert without food.

The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

The Word of the Lord also comes to us from 1 Corinthians 10:12-14.

So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.

Week 4: Covetousness (Greed)

Prayer of Confession

Lord God, you tell us specifically in your “Ten Best Ways to Live” that we ought not to covet what our neighbor has. We confess that we are not very good at this. We so often feel that we need more money so we can have more things. Forgive us for being ungrateful for your blessings in our lives.

We too easily look at what others have: their homes, their jobs, their families, their vacations. Lord, the list of things we covet is long. We too often allow things to take the place in our hearts that rightfully belongs to you. Forgive us, Heavenly Father. Our greed reflects a lack of trust in your providence.

We are wasteful with the money that you entrust to our care. We spend on things that rust or fade, or bring but momentary satisfaction, and we lack in generosity when it comes to spending our time and money for your kingdom. Forgive us, Lord.

Help us to look not only to our own interests in this life, but to the interest of others. This we ask in the name of your precious Son, who gave his very life for us. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon

Congregation, hear the Word of the Lord as he assures us of his providence in Luke 12:22-34:

Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

“Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Week 5: Jealousy and Envy

Prayer of Confession

Leader: Heavenly Father, we are a broken people. We are sinful and unwilling to think and act the way you want us to. We are jealous and envious of others. We want things that others have, regardless of our need.

All: Forgive us, Lord.

We downplay the gifts of others, and we sometime think that they do not deserve the good things they have.

Forgive us, Lord.

We may acknowledge the gifts that others possess, but then we focus on their faults. We refuse to remove the log of wood from our own eye before removing the speck from the eye of another.

Forgive us, Father.

We can be entirely ungracious toward our fellow humans. We do not love others as we love ourselves, and in so doing, we fail to love you, the Creator of all.

Forgive us, Father in heaven, and in your mercy change our hearts and put our sins out of your sight. We ask this in the name of our Lord, who set us the example of sharing our joys and sorrows. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon

Leader: People of God, hear the Word of the Lord as he comforts us from Psalm 103:

All: Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits—

who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Satisfied by the Lord, we put away envy and jealousy. We praise the Lord with a grateful heart for his blessings. Amen.

Week 6: Lust

Prayer of Confession

Leader: Father God, how easily our ambitions turn to lust! We are ashamed that we do not see our fellow humans as precious in your sight; rather we use others for our own personal gratification. Lord, you warn us to be careful where we look, yet wrong things can be just a computer mouse-click away, and we are tempted.

All: Forgive us, Lord.

We lust for power over others, yet we have not developed self-discipline.

Forgive us, Lord.

We give no thought to how we are cluttering our heads and souls with the messages that we take in from advertising and media. We ignore the deep communion that you desire to have with us, and we accept the cheap and casual messages of intimacy from the world around us.

Forgive us, Lord.

Set us free from the oppression and bondage of wrong relationships, and hide us under the shadow of the cross.

Help us to proclaim your truth boldly and in a spirit of the love that drove you to take the weight of our sins on the cross. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Assurance of Pardon

Congregation, hear the words of pardon from the Lord through the prophet Isaiah:

“Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.

Hear also Paul’s bold proclamation in 2 Corinthians 6:1, 2:

As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.”

I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor; now is the day of salvation.

Good Friday: Anger

Prayer of Confession

Father, our anger and our desire for vengeance create walls among us, your people—walls that we cannot climb over. And rather than looking for ways to take those walls apart, we shore them up with stones of grudges held together by the mortar of resentment.

Our anger and resentments build a wall between us and your grace. We are blinded by the plank in our own eye as we seek to remove the speck from the eye of another.

We are self-righteous in our attitudes. We are quick to lay blame at the feet of another and slow to accept our part in conflicts.

We fail to see the hurt and loss inflicted on others by our angry words and actions.

Forgive us for our anger, we beg of you. Not because we deserve it, but because Jesus paid for all our sins on the cross. In his precious name, Amen.

Assurance of Pardon

Leader: Hear the Word of the Lord as it comes to us from Isaiah 53:4-6:

Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.

All: But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Hear also the instruction of the Lord given to us through the apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:30-32:

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Easter

Prayer of Confession

Leader: Lord we stand before your empty tomb and we confess that we are a sinful people. We do not always live our lives in the victory of the empty grave. We neither share in the death of Christ to sin, nor do we rejoice in his resurrection. We too willingly continue in our sins, content to stay with the familiar.

People: Forgive us, Lord.

We fail to reflect the Father-love that you have for us in our relationships with others. We are selfish and self-serving, rather than being Godly and serving others. We want to occupy the throne of power in our own lives, rather than giving it over to you.

Forgive us, Lord.

Lord, we sometimes live in the moment in such a way that it appears we do not believe in eternity. We are thoughtless and careless with the people, possessions, and time that you have entrusted us with. We confess that we often seek our comfort in places other than in Christ alone.

Forgive us, Lord.

Today we give you our sloth and our pride, our gluttony and greed, our jealousy, lust, and anger, and we ask you to remove those far from us.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. (Ps. 51:10-12)

In the name of our risen Lord, Amen.

Assurance of Pardon

Let us read together the words of life found in Romans 6:

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?  

By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.

Liz Kraan was involved in planning and leading worship at Collingwood Christian Reformed Church in Collingwood, Ontario. She now worships at New Life Church in Collingwood.