Sunday, July 25, 2010

Because We Are Guilty: A Prayer of Confession for the American Church

In the strong name of Jesus our Mediator I pray; as Job sacrificed for the sins of his family, and your priests confessed the sins of your people, and Daniel confessed the sins of his generation, and Isaiah his, and Moses his, so I confess the sins of our church and ask for cleansing and that you, mighty Father, would grant to us a deep repentance. You tell us that it is the humble and contrite heart that you will not despise. To you be glory in the church both now and forevermore.

Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven; give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses for they are many, and grievous, and offensive to your holiness, and demeaning of Your Name.
We are a people that has not gladly bowed to your precious Word of Truth. We have ignored it, dismissed it, trifled with it, and put our own thoughts and the ways of our denominations before it. We have not believed it as true though every man be a liar. And yet, we have expected your blessing and have not feared your judgment. Because of this we are not a healthy, gospel-driven, Christ-exalting, disciple-making people. We fear men and their rejection of us.

Because we have not known the worth of your Son revealed in your Word, we have numerous idols. We have sought, for decades, to think of you as we, in our sinfulness, would like you to be, because we don’t have the good sense to love you as you are in your manifold perfections.
We, like Nimrod and his descendants, have labored feverishly, yet vainly, to form a people in our own image and after our own likeness so that we might make a name for ourselves. We have tried to build a church on programs and personalities and have not trusted you to build it as you say you will by your gospel. We have horded the gospel, not giving it away freely and gladly.

Our men are weak men. We are not godly or strong in the Lord and the power of your might. We have abdicated headship in our homes to our wives and, in some cases, our children. Therefore we are an effeminate church. Our homes have not been marked with masculine holiness, so neither has the church. We have wasted countless hours piddling about the house. We have wasted more time on play, entertainment and over-eating, and have not known the fruit of your Spirit, including love for our families and control of ourselves.

Our women have accepted the headship role we have given them, though Lord you have never given it to them. As you told Eve she would be, so our women have been; not respecting and helping their husbands, but seeking to rule over them. Our women have not exhorted and encouraged and corrected one another as you have commanded.

We have sought, like the world, to raise moral children instead of godly children, being so biblically illiterate that we have believed the two are the same. We have taught them how to succeed in the world, but not in holiness. We have not trained them in righteousness as you define it. We have commanded them but not instructed them because we thought other work more important. Our children have not honored their parents through submission and obedience in love. They have exerted themselves against the rightful rule of father and mother, seeking to rule themselves by themselves.

We are not a loving church. We do not love one another as you love us or even as we love ourselves. We have refused to share time, space, meals, money and more. We have withheld these things from our Christian family which has rightful claim upon them. We believe the houses we live in are our houses, the schedule we keep is our schedule, not to be changed or interrupted, even by our Creator. We have idolized our comforts and routines, and have neglected one another. We have substituted works for faith, holding ourselves and others to our own human standards for righteousness and not to the standards of Scripture. We have exalted our own scruples to the place of law, attempting to bind the free consciences of your people. We have not believed that Christ plus nothing equals everything.

We are a divided church; refusing to fellowship each one with the others, to put love into action, mis-defining it as sentiment instead of sacrifice. We have failed to pray for each other, and with each other, and to grow in Christian wisdom and to serve in Christian kindness. With attitudes of pride and entitlement and suspicion, we boycott many occasions of genuine fellowship and Scripture learning. We have joined a body to which we are not committed. We have signed a covenant that we ignore, rejecting the biblical forms of participation described in it.
We have loved things and not people.

We are selfish, which has bred complaints, gossip, slander and hurt feelings. We have failed to train ourselves to read and think as pathways to understanding, which you command us to acquire. We drop in and out as if the church is something other than the congregation of the saints, and a chief means of perseverance and sanctification. We have not known the significance and value of Baptism and the Lord’s Table, and so have forfeited the blessings of them. We have not valued, as you command and teach, the Lord’s Day. We believe the church gatherings to be optional, the church meals optional, fellowship in general – optional.
We don’t keep our promises. We begin and don’t finish. We show up if we feel like it, as if the gatherings are mostly about what we gain and not what we give. We have thought of our church as an aggregation of individuals and not as the proudly interdependent organism you tell us it is – even your own bride and body and family and temple. We behave as though the church has no claim on our time, energy, food, money, space and other resources. We, unlike the church described in your word, are not of one mind. We do not have all things in common. Instead we have been guarded, private, suspicious, stingy and even cold; the evidences of our pitiful grasp on the gospel of Your Son.

We have not, as you command, been submissive to our pastors, even when they are faithful to your Word. We have not made their work joyful, or trusted them, or esteemed them highly as those who watch over our souls. All these things you command in your Word. Instead we have made their work burdensome, and have blamed them for what we don’t like, as if what we like is the standard for the church. We pastors have feared and used our people, and have not loved and shepherded them faithfully. We have been without integrity. We have given ourselves to winning friends by living down to the senseless expectations of fallen men and women, instead of living up to our calling – to feed the flock of God among us.

We have been a hard-hearted people, refusing to own up to our own sins. We have pointed our fingers at others, but rarely, if ever, at ourselves. We are pompous; believing someone else is the problem with our church and country, while we ourselves are spiritually lazy, sick and stiff-necked.
In addition Lord, to my knowledge, we have confessed none of these sins as sins, neither have we disciplined Christians for sin. We have let them go, saying it’s none of our business. And in so doing we have failed to love and protect and restore them. We have not held those we’ve baptized to their public covenant pledge of faithfulness to Jesus and His church. We have been so dull of thought that we have not recognized this wicked rebellion. We have treated you as of no consequence, and so forfeited the joy and hope you give to those who love you.

Our church has been mostly concerned about its name, and has had little concern for yours. We have been very proud; proud of the music program, proud of our events, proud of our numbers, proud of our buildings – and so you have taken much of it away. Thank you! For it is as you say Lord, pride does go before a fall, and a haughty spirit before stumbling. And as King Nebuchadnezzar confessed following his demise, “Now I praise, exalt, and honor the King of Heaven, for all his works are true and his ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride”; so Lord may we now also be humbled and cured of our pride, and so praise, exalt and honor You, the King of Heaven.

Good Father, do as you will. If in your mercy you will forgive us and cleanse us and revive us and reform us, we ask this of you, and we pray for an outpouring of your super abounding redemptive grace. At the same time Lord, we will accept whatever you determine is good. If this church has had her time, and should now die, then by all means Father, kill it. Remove this lampstand and raise up in its place a Christ-centered, gospel-driven, Bible-saturated, praying, thinking, humble, confident and missional church. For your name, and your renown, are the desires of our heart. Amen.

He 2:9-18; Jn 14:14; Job 1:5; Lv 16; Da 9:1-19; Is 64; Ex 32:30-35; Ac 5:31; 2 Ti 2:25; Ps 51:17; Ep 3:20f; Mt 6:9-13; Ro 3:4; Ps 50:17, 22f; Mt 10:24-28; Ro 1:18-23; Ge 11:1-9; Mt 16:18; Ep 6:10-18; Ep 5:25-33; 1 Pe 3:1-6; Dt 6:1-9; Pr 22:6; Ep 6:4; Ep 6:1-3; Mt 22:35-40; 1 Jn 3:16-18; Ac 2:42-47; Dt 8; Ro 14; Ep 2:8f; 1 Pe 4:7; Mt 6:9-13; Re 3:17; Lk 12:13-34; 1 Pe 4:9; Php 2:1-16; 1 Co 14:20; Pr 6:16-19; He 3f, 10; Ac 2:38, 10:46ff; Mt 28:19; Mt 26:29; Ge 2:1-3; Mk 2:27; Lk 9:62; Mt 24:2; 1 Pe 2:4-10; He 13:17; 1 Pe 5:1-5; 1 Ti 3:1-1-7; Ja 5:16; 1 Co 5, 10f; Ep 6:1; Tit 1:10f; 2 Ti 2:25; Jos 7:1-9; Pr 16:18; Da 4; Ps 51; Je 29; Re 2:1-5; Is 26:8.