Recently, the members of Emmaus Church, Kansas City met for an evening of prayer during which time we confessed several specific, corporate sins. We did so with the eager anticipation for God to reform our hearts to reflect his gospel more clearly, which is something we should continually long for in our lives. With our move to North KC just days away, it is healthy for us to keep these confessions and petitions on our lips as we look to Jesus to continue to build his church. And even if you aren’t a member of Emmaus, these confessions may serve you well: it pleases God when we acknowledge our neediness for him in prayer, and in confession, that’s just what we do.
“Father God, this evening we come to you with heavy hearts, convicted of many things, and we thank you now for the opportunity to confess and repent of them as one body, to be unified with one heart and mind.
Prayerlessness – Father, this prayer is in and of itself an act of repentance, for we confess our prayerlessness as a church. Often, Father, we have shown an over-reliance on our abilities and our talents and our planning. We confess that, for all the signs of faithfulness and health that this congregation truly does exhibit, we have not always been marked as a people who fervently seek you for help. We ask that you would make us aware of our weakness and dependence on you and your Holy Spirit—make us desperate for you, Holy Spirit, not just to satisfy our own joy, but to empower us to do anything worth mentioning. Lord, you have instructed us in your Word that “unless the Lord builds a house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” (Ps. 127:1) Cause us to be convinced of this, LORD, for we know that if we truly believe only you can build your church, we would be quicker to beg for your help and your direction, and our planning would be born out of deep and desperate prayer.
Pride – And Father, this prayerlessness also communicates a much deeper sin, which is Pride. Our pride manifests itself in a number of forms, and in addition to prayerlessness, we also confess that pride rears its ugly head in our midst when we refuse to confess our sin to one another. We confess, God, that we value others’ perception of us far too highly; we are so committed to the image of virtue and respectability and faithfulness we want to project for others that we fail to do the virtuous, respectable, and faithful act of confession. In this, we needlessly deprive ourselves of one of your gifts of grace, we confess that pride is the cooperate behind such self-destruction. Our pride also manifests itself, Lord, in our tireless comparing of others. This act of comparing ourselves with others betrays our small view of you, God, for it is impossible to fear you while simultaneously fearing man, and the refusal to fear you over man is due to nothing less than an inaccurately small view of you.
Disunity – Father, we also confess the ways in which this fear of man destroys our church body uniquely. For when we compare ourselves with each other in a vicious circle of competition, we reduce our fellow brothers and sisters for shameful gain. Either they become objects of our judgment to occasion our boasting when we tear them down to elevate ourselves, or we make ourselves objects of self-condemnation when we consider our accomplishments sub-par to theirs. In both of these cases, Lord, we fail to love and cherish your body as a body. May we not resent the gifts you have given others and withheld from us, for you have given gifts to bless and build the church, and may we not boast of the gifts you have given us and withheld from others, for you have given gifts to bless and build the church. May we celebrate our brothers and sisters’ accomplishments as our own, and grieve over our brothers’ and sisters’ sorrows as our own. Protect us, Lord, from a disunity by means of creating silos and unrelated spheres. We confess, Lord, that often we have contented ourselves with calling a brother and sister a “brother and sister” without taking the time to extend a gracious hand of invitation and friendship. Forgive us for this sectarianism, which should not even be named in your church.
Bitterness – And Father, we confess that our disunity finds even darker expressions in the form of bitterness and forgiveness. We harbor grudges and insist on inflicting the punishment of emotive and relational shunning of those we profess to be in “community” with. Lord, please forbid such bitterness to continue in our midst. Remind us of the embarrassing amount of grace and forgiveness you have lavished upon us, and continue to lavish upon us even now, so that we can show even a fraction of such grace and forgiveness to one another.
Inhospitality – Lord, we are thus also reminded of our corporate sin of inhospitality. We confess, Lord, that we are quick to justify our inhospitality with empty excuses. Lord, you have shown so much hospitality to us by opening your arms and bringing us into your home, not just as guests, but as children! But Father, we confess that such a posture of invitation and hospitality is not always a mark of this body—either towards other members, or towards visitors and guests. Holy Spirit, please convict and guide us in this area where necessary; may we reflect the kind of hospitality and generosity that is befitting of a congregation that boasts of boasting in nothing but the gospel.
Lack of evangelistic zeal – Lastly, Lord, we are here reminded of our lack of evangelistic zeal. Many of us are content with meditating on the riches of your gospel, and reveling in the riches of your gospel with one another, but we don’t insist on sharing the riches of your gospel to the lost. We confess that the lostness of our neighbors doesn’t cause us to ache with grief. Animate us, Lord, to be an evangelistic people; may the prospect of hell for our neighbors be so intensely horrifying to us that their state of ignorance regarding your gospel becomes intolerable. Cause us to see people no longer according to the flesh, but give us eyes instead to see the tragedy of unbelief. May we be totally discontented to remain silent about your gospel; give us occasion to share the good news of what you have done in Christ with those who do not cling to him in faith, and give us a boldness to do this with passion and earnestness. May we be marked by urgency where there once was negligence. And Father, remind us that the ability to even be this honest with all of our sins and failures is nothing short of extreme grace: we have liberty to confess our sins because we are your children, purchased by the costly blood of Jesus, and we are now free to be brutally honest with our sin because, quite literally, we have nothing to lose. Therefore, we ask, Holy Spirit, that even as you convict us of our sins, you do so as our kind and gentle Comforter, bearing witness with our spirit that we truly are children of God.”