Tuesday, July 29, 2008


I work for a Catholic (capital C) health care provider organization, and we open all of our significant team meetings with prayer. I'm a Presbyterian, IT person, introvert, and find that particularly uncomfortable, but today was my turn to lead the prayer. I considered leading my management team in a round of Johnny Appleseed. Luckily for everyone involved, this Sunday's church service had provided me with the perfect answer in our prayer of confession:

God of hopes and dreams, we confess that at times our hopes and dreams are too confined. We want to create Us and Them, and so all too often we build ourselves up by putting others down. Help us to remember that all are welcome, that each one of us is a child of God. By the power of your Spirit help us to open up our hearts ato serve you and celebrate the gifts of all your people that together, we might plant and grow your kingdom with love, hope, and peace.

It was a very appropriate prayer for our team, as we have a pretty serious internal Them and Us complex on top of the usual IT versus business contention. My wife thought it very subversive of me to use a Prayer of Confession for my Catholic employer, whose doctrine suggests that we can only confess to God through a priest.

It surprised me, but it turns out that I really value my ability to be able to confess directly to God.

Nearly eight years ago, my then-fiancee and I were planning our wedding ceremony and I was adamant (though ultimately overruled) that we not include a Prayer of Confession. I sometimes skipped it in the service. Even as recently as three years ago, I can very distinctly remember thinking that the Prayer of Confession was only for people who didn't realize that they did things wrong sometimes. I knew that I made mistakes, but there wasn't any reason to admit that out loud to everyone around me! And I knew what I should do to be a better person. Why did we have to talk about it?

In retrospect, I can't believe that I felt I was above that.

Now when we get to the Prayer of Confession, I feel refreshed and energized to continue to do better works and be a better person. I was converted. There are probably several reasons why my perspective has changed, but I'm glad I have... I feel forgiven... I feel blessed. I didn't used to.


Gannet Girl said...

I have never heard a Catholic priest, or any Catholic, suggest that we can only confess to God through a priest.

paulboal said...

Admittedly, I'm not Catholic or a study of Canon law, so I may have misstated. I'll reference a Wikipedia article on the Sacrament of Penance and let folks work on the details for themselves. That was really a side note to post, so I apologize for any inaccuracy or distraction.

Sarahlynn said...

If we're going wikipedia, I think this article might be more relevant: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confession

"Protestant churches believe that no intermediary is necessary between the Christian and God in order to be absolved from sins."

And, perhaps, this article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penitential_Rite

"In the [], the Penitential Rite is a part of the Introductory Rites of the Mass. The Penitential Rite is a time of reflection on one's sins and a prayer for God's mercy. While the Penitential Rite is similar to the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, the priest does not offer absolution; this differs from Anglicanism, where absolution is offered during the Penitential Rite"

At any rate, the modern form of the public confession did come, I believe, as part of The Reformation.

I am no Biblical scholar, and I'm sure that others here could clarify, but my understanding is that earthly absolution is offered by priests after private confession; absolution is not granted after a communal prayer of confession (Reformed) or traditional Penitential Rite (Catholic) for Roman Catholics.

Stushie said...

I'm having a long conversation with someone on my other blog about the need for confession. In his words, "I am not a sinner, but a perfect child of God, therefore I rejoice in that."

A lot of people are looking for that type of blanket acceptance where God sees them as humanly perfect instead of sinfully depraved. it's the role of the Church to lead people away from that New Age foolishness and bring them to Christ.

jairus' daughter said...

the details of our comparisons to Catholics aside... we presbyterians are really kinda stuck in our confession, and i think that's a good thing. I often say the Prayer at the Close of Day (in our book of common worship) and love the confession. It's cleansing to finish the day like that... and let go of it all. I also love the call to confession saying "we dare to approach God with confidence." I remember times when I went to church already feeling repentant or down about things, and got hit over the head with a "don't you know you're a sinner?" confession... but it doesn't need to be that, and we should celebrate our reliance on grace!!!