We do earnestly repent, And are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; The remembrance of them is grievous unto us; The burden of them is intolerable.
Have mercy upon us, have mercy upon us, most merciful Father; For thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, Forgive us all that is past; And grant that we may ever hereafter Serve and please thee In newness of life, To the honour and glory of thy name; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Gospel Coalition offers an example of a prayer of confession that begins:
Holy and righteous God, we confess that like Isaiah, we are a people of unclean lips. But it is not only unclean lips we possess. We are people with unclean hands and unclean hearts. We have broken your law times without number, and are guilty of pride, unbelief, self-centeredness and idolatry. Affect our hearts with the severity of our sin and the glory of your righteousness as we now acknowledge our sins in your holy presence.
And 9Marks offers another example of a prayer of confession, a portion of which reads:
We have awakened from our beds this morning, and partaken of meals, and moved our limbs, and used our senses with thankless hearts, ignoring you, the Sovereign Lord over every detail of our lives.
We confess that we have thought you to be a little God, and the people of the land to be like giants. We have feared men, rather than God. We have held up and revered people at our jobs, at our gyms, even in our own homes and in this church, to give us praise and fill us with the love that only you can provide.
While liturgy is absent from many Protestant traditions, it is nevertheless valuable because it encourages believers so see the global church as one body. As one pastor says, “When we read creeds and confessions, it teaches our congregation that we join with all faithful believers across time and throughout the world today in confessing our faith to the glory of God. As the content of doctrine is repeated and taken in as what is true, the church is unified in its worship.”
It is worth noting that prayers of confession tend to be based on Scripture, and one of the best ways believers can say a prayer of confession is simply by praying God’s words back to him. So a Christian might simply pray Psalm 51 as a way of confessing his or her sins. And while written prayers of confession are valuable and helpful, as Jones points out, the words we say are not nearly as important as the state of our hearts, as in Jesus’ parable of the tax collector who with a broken heart simply asked, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”