Often people wonder the reasons behind some of the elements of worship that we do each week. Maybe you have wondered why we do a Prayer of Confession each week. In many cases the Prayer of Confession is the element of worship that is the first to go when a church trims something from their worship service. For me, the prayer of confession is one of the most important aspects of worship that we do each week and there are three primary reasons that I feel this way.
Reason 1: They teach us how to confess our sins to God.
In my younger years, I was not a big fan of written prayers of confession. I felt that they lacked any personal engagement with the particular sins that I was struggling with. I still believe this to be true but now I actually think that is a good thing. If the only thing I'm confessing are the sins that I can call to mind, I'm missing a whole lot of sins that I need to confess. Most written prayers of confession said in worship sweep with a very broad brush. We are asking for forgiveness for something more than our individual sins but getting down to the core of our human sinfulness. We are not only acknowledging that we have committed sins but we are confessing that at our root we are sinners. That means that we are confessing the sins that we are aware of and the sins that we may be oblivious to. With the Psalmist in Psalm 19:12 we are saying "Declare me innocent from hidden faults".
So as we pray our prayer of confession it is showing us that in our own prayers we should come before God humbly. We also hope that God would not only forgive us of those unknown sins but that he would make them known to us that we might repent of them. Most written prays also include a statement of confession not only for things that we have done but also for the things that we have left undone. The prayers of confession we say in worship cover the full spectrum and teach us that we need to confess of far more than we think we do.
Reason 2: It gives us a proper frame of mind for approaching God.
When we come before God it is important that we do in humility. We cannot go to God on our own. He is holy and we are not. When we confess our sins we acknowledge this fact. Our worship is structured the way it is for a reason. We are invited with the words of scripture in our Call to Worship. We sing praises to our amazing and awesome God. After we have acknowledged how great God is we realize that we are sinners who are not worthy of going before Him on our own. We then ask for forgiveness through Christ. It is because of the work of Jesus for us that we know that we can come before God boldly. To confess our sins each week is a reminder of how much we need Jesus to come to us and save us. In Christ, we have a mediator who goes before us on our behalf. In a Prayer of Confession we are reminded of this gracious gift that we are given through Jesus.
Reason 3: It ensures that I hear that my sins are forgiven.
We never say a Prayer of Confession without the Words of Assurance to follow. This is very important. Even though the Words of Assurance is one of the shortest parts of our service it is arguably one of the most important elements of worship. From Scripture we hear that because of Christ's work for us we are forgiven and declared righteous. This isn't an opinion of the pastor or the congregation. It is a declaration from Scripture.
As the pastor I really appreciate this element of worship because it ensures that the congregation hears the gospel every week even if I drop the ball in the sermon. No matter what happens on any Sunday morning their is a gospel failsafe built into our church service because we have a Prayer of Confession and Words of Assurance. That Christ has forgiven you and that you are declared righteous is the most important thing you need to hear and believe each and every week. That is why it is in every Lord's Day worship service that we have.
I hope that these three reasons help you to understand our worship service more clearly. The way we worship is very deliberate and the parts are placed where they are for a specific reason. It is our hope that each Lord's Day you are equipped and refreshed for service in God's world.