Unfortunately, the practice of confession of sins has been largely forgotten by the evangelical church. Granted, there are some traditional Protestant churches that practice a generic type of confession. This normally consists of prayer in unison and about 5-10 seconds of uncomfortable silence. Still, this is better than having no time of confession at all associated with a worship service.
Now take a look at how we practice confession in our family and in DOTW Church.
Confession (After the period of reflection, the leader shares the Scripture below and calls the group to confession.)
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. –Psalm 51:2-4
Let us confess our sins to God.
- If individually you wish to confess aloud specific sins that trouble you, continue as follows:
Lord, I confess that …
The leader may gently question or instruct you—not to pry or judge—but to assist in self-examination.
Then conclude by saying:
I repent and ask for grace. In your mercy, Lord, hear my prayer.
The congregation will then join together in response to each confession to say:
If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness
–1 John 1:8-9
Assurance of Forgiveness (After all who desire have prayed, the leader continues.)
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. –1 John 2:1-2 (NIV)
Why do we practice confession in such a structured and communal way?
- We tend to ask for forgiveness and apologize in a manner that is simply not Biblical. It normally goes something like this. Me: I’m sorry for not taking out the trash when I promised I would. My Wife: That’s okay. In this case, neither the asking nor the response is Biblical. The communal, formal structure of confession provides us with a Biblical framework when confessing sins.
- The Bible says to confess our sins to each other (James 5:16). We tend to view this as a command only to obey in extreme circumstances rather than in our day to day Christian lives. But there are certain things important to our Christian growth that can only happen as we confess to each other. For example, confession tends to soften our hearts to other Christians and to God when we confess and when we hear others confess, and it also enables us as the body of Christ to hold each other accountable. We can also more readily see the growth in each other as we see Christ’s transforming power.
- Finally, we also experience healing when we partake of confession as the body of Christ. The idea in James 5:13-16 is not that your particular sins are causing physical sickness, but that healing is a whole body, soul and spirit endeavor. So, it’s not that confession of sins is a prerequisite to healing, but that healing actually takes place through confession and the forgiveness of sins.