Corporate Confession of Sin and Assurance of Pardon

Corporate worship, as our local church understands it, is a time of joyful covenantal renewal which includes confession of sin, assurance of pardon, responsive prayers, corporate song, the preaching of the gospel and the covenantal climax of communion in the Lord's Supper. To be frank, I previously never thought I would find liturgy to be a meaningful form of worship in a church, but after experiencing it, I have found it to be a much more meaningful form of worship because of its connection to Scripture, history, the corporate body and the depth of its ability to illumine the covenant.  Many churches have put aside the corporate confession in favor of only music but the church has historically made the corporate confession central to worship. For most it makes the time of worship more authentic and joyful for it strikes a blow against self-righteousness and humbles us before God as we say what we know to be true of ourselves and the only Lord who saves us. It reminds us that we are not better than others and that it is only grace (an alien righteousness) which makes us what we are. God remembers, in the covenant in Christ's blood, not to treat us as our sins deserve. In it we pray for personal sin, for the sins of our local church, our local community, our nation and world.

But Corporate confession of sin, by itself, would bring only despair were it not for our knowledge of God's faithfulness to His covenant promise, His forgiveness and mercy. It is dangerous to dwell on ourselves and our sin if we do not also rememeber that God delights in forgiving us. So I personally deeply appreciate when the pastor declares the following after we have confessed: "...but if your faith is in Jesus Christ, then I can assure you, based on the sure promise of the Word, that your sins are forgiven...."  Praise God for that for corporate confession is really simply only a reminder of the gospel as a way to begin each service..

Here are some of the confessions we have used:

To enrich me will not diminish your fullness;
All your lovingkindness is in your Son,
I bring him to you in the arms of faith,
I urge his saving name as the one who died for me,
I plead his blood to pay for my debts of wrong.
Accept his worthiness for my unworthiness
his sinlessness for my transgression,
his purity for my uncleanness,
his sincerity for my guile,
his truth for my deceits,
his meekness for my pride,
his constancy for my backslidings,
his love for my enmity,
his fullness for my emptiness,
his faithfulness for my treachery,
his obedience for my lawlessness,
his glory for my shame,
his devotedness for my waywardness,
his holy life for my unchaste ways,
his righteousness for my dead works,
his death for my life. Amen.

Minister: Blessed Jesus,
you offered us all your blessings when you announced
Blessed are the poor in spirit
People: but we have been rich in pride.
Minister: Blessed are those who mourn
People: but we have not known much sorrow for our sin.
Minister: Blessed are the meek
People: but we are a stiff-necked people.
Minister: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness
People: but we are filled to the full with other things.
Minister: Blessed are the merciful”
People: but we are harsh and impatient.
Minister: Blessed are the pure in heart
People: but we have impure hearts.
Minister: Blessed are the peacemakers
People: but we have not sought reconciliation.
Minister: Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness
People: but our lives do not challenge the world.
Minister: Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you
and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me
People: but we have hardly made it known that we are yours.
Minister: Your Law is holy and your benedictions are perfect,
but they are both too great for us.
You alone are blessed.
People: We plead with you to forgive our sins
and give us the blessing of your righteousness.


O King and Father, your Son died and was raised up in power.
Now enable us to die to our sin in repentance so we may rise to
new life in Him. We confess to you:

Lord, though you should guide us, we inform ourselves;
though you should rule us, we control ourselves;
though you should fulfill us, we console ourselves.
We think your truth too high, your will too hard,
your power too remote, your love too free. But they are not!
And without them, we are of all people most miserable.
Now heal our confused minds with your word,
heal our divided wills with your law,
heal our troubled consciences with your love,
heal our anxious hearts with your presence,
all for the sake of your Son,
who loved us and gave himself for us. Amen.

O my Savior, help me.
I am slow to learn, prone to forget, and weak to climb;
I am in the foothills when I should be on the heights;
I am pained by my graceless heart,
my prayerless days,
my poverty of love,
my sloth in the heavenly race,
my sullied conscience,
my wasted hours,
my unspent opportunities.
I am blind while the light shines around me:
take the scales from my eyes,
grind to dust my heart of unbelief.
Make it my highest joy to study you,
meditate on you,
gaze on you,
sit like Mary at your feet,
lean like John on your breast,
appeal like Peter to your love,
count like Paul all things but dung.
I believe, help my unbelief. Amen

Almighty and most merciful Father, we are thankful that your mercy is
higher than the heavens,
wider than our wanderings,
deeper than all our sin.
Forgive our careless attitudes toward your purposes,
our refusal to relieve the suffering of others,
our envy of those who have more than we have,
our obsession with creating a life of constant pleasure,
our indifference to the treasures of heaven,
our neglect of your wise and gracious law.
Help us to change our way of life
so that we may desire what is good,
love what you love,
and do what you command,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Almighty God, we acknowledge and confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed; we have not loved you with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength; we have not loved our neighbor as ourselves. Deepen within us our sorrow for the wrong we have done, and the good we have left undone. Lord, you are full of compassion and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy; there is always forgiveness with you! Restore to us the joy of your salvation; bind up that which is broken, give light to our minds, strength to our wills, and rest to our souls. Speak to each of us, and let your word abide with us until it has wrought in us your holy will. Amen.

Lord Jesus, I have sinned times without number, and been guilty of pride and unbelief, and of neglect to seek you in my daily life. My sins and shortcomings present me with a list of accusations, but I thank you that they will not stand against me, for all have been laid on Christ. Deliver me from every evil habit, every interest of former sins, everything that dims the brightness of your grace in me, everything that prevents me taking delight in you. Amen.

O Lord, my every sense, member, faculty, affection, is a snare to me.
I can scarce open my eyes but I envy those above me,
or despise those below.
I covet the honor and riches of the mighty,
and am proud and unmerciful to the rags of others.
If I behold beauty it is a bait to lust,
or see deformity, it stirs up loathing and disdain;
How soon do slanders, vain jests, and wanton speeches creep into my heart!

Am I comely? What fuel for pride!
Am I deformed? What an occasion for repining!
Am I gifted? How I lust after applause!
Am I unlearned? How I despise what I have not!
Am I in authority? How prone to abuse my trust,
make will my law,
exclude others' enjoyments,
serve my own interests and policy!
Am I inferior? How much I grudge others' preeminence!
Am I rich? How exalted I become!

You know that all these are snares by my corruptions,
and that my greatest snare is myself.
I bewail that my apprehensions are dull,
my thoughts mean,
my affections stupid,
my expressions low,
my life unbeseeming;
Yet what can You expect of dust but insincerity,
of corruption but defilement?
Keep me ever mindful of my natural state,
but let me not forget my heavenly title,
or the grace that can deal with every sin. Amen.

Lord Jesus Christ,
Sin is my malady, my monster, my foe, my viper,
born in my birth, alive in my life,
strong in my character, dominating my faculties,
following me as a shadow, intermingling with my every thought,
my chain that holds me captive.
Yet your compassions yearn over me,
your heart hastens to my rescue,
your love endured my curse,
your mercy bore my justice.
Let me walk in humility,
bathed in your blood,
tender of conscience,
living in triumph as an heir of salvation
through your blessed name. Amen.

O Father, we are gathered before you, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, whose chosen dwelling place is with the broken and contrite, to confess that
we have sinned in thought and word and deed;
we have not loved you with all our heart and soul,
we have not loved you with all our mind and strength;
we have not even loved our neighbor as ourselves.
In your mercy, deepen our sorrow for the wrong we have done and for the good we have left undone, so that we may hate our sin with a holy hatred. But, please Father, do not leave us in sorrow. With you, O Lord, there is forgiveness. In your mercy, restore the joy of our salvation; so that we may love you with a holy love. Amen.

Holy Father, forgive us. Though you should guide us, we inform ourselves. Though you should rule us, we control ourselves. Though you should fulfill us, we console ourselves. For we think your truth too high, your will too hard, your power to remote, your love too free. But they are not! And without them, we are of all people most miserable. Heal our confused mind with your word, heal our divided will with your law, heal our troubled conscience with your love, heal our anxious hearts with your presence, all for the sake of your Son, who loved us and gave himself for us. Amen.

Merciful Lord, we confess that with us there is an abundance of sin, but in you there is the fullness of righteousness and abundance of mercy. We are spiritually poor, but you are rich and in Jesus Christ came to be merciful to the poor. Strengthen our faith and trust in you. We are empty vessels that need to be filled; fill us. We are weak in faith; strengthen us. We are cold in love; warm us, and make our hearts fervent for you that our love may go out to one another and to our neighbors. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jesus, forgive my sins. Forgive the sins that I remember, and the sins I have forgotten. Forgive my many failures in the face of temptation, and those times when I have been stubborn in the face of correction. Forgive the times I have been proud of my own achievements and those when I have failed to boast in your works. Forgive the harsh judgments I have made of others, and the leniency I have shown myself. Forgive the lies I have told to others, and the truths I have avoided. Forgive me the pain I have caused others and the indulgence I have shown myself. Jesus, have mercy on me and make me whole. Amen.

Father in heaven, we thank you for the freedom you have given us through the life, death and resurrection of your Son. But we confess today that we often live like slaves. Instead of living like you delight in us, we avoid you in shame and guilt. Instead of receiving your favor as a gift, we try to earn it with our efforts. Instead of accepting your freedom, we prefer our chains. Instead of pursuing your purposes, we cling to our short-sighted agendas. Forgive us. Embrace us. Cleanse us. Heal us. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Most holy and merciful Father,
we confess to you and to one another,
that we have sinned against you
by what we have done
and by what we have left undone
We have not loved you
with our whole heart and mind and strength.
We have not fully loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We have not always had in us the mind of Christ.
You alone know how often we have grieved you
by wasting your gifts, by wandering from your ways.
Forgive us, we pray you, most merciful Father;
and free us from our sin.
Renew in us the grace and strength of your Holy Spirit,
for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son our Savior. Amen.

Gracious God, we confess that we have longed too much for the comforts of this world. We have loved the gifts more than the giver. In your mercy, help us to see that all the things we pine for are shadows, but you are substance; that they are quicksands, but you are mountain; that they are shifting, but you are anchor. We plead your forgiveness on the merits of Jesus Christ. Accept his worthiness for our unworthiness, his sinlessness for our transgressions, his fullness for our emptiness, his glory for our shame, his righteousness for our dead works, his death for our life. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Gracious God, our sins are too heavy to carry, too real to hide, and too deep to undo. Forgive what our lips tremble to name, what our hearts can no longer bear, and what has become for us a consuming fire of judgment. Set us free from a past that we cannot change; open to us a future in which we can be changed; and grant us grace to grow more and more in your likeness and image, through Jesus Christ, the light of the world. Amen.

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.

God of love, it is your will that we should love you with heart, soul, mind, strength, and our neighbor as ourselves, but we are not sufficient for these things. We confess that our affections continually turn away from you: from purity to lust, from freedom to slavery, from compassion to indifference, from fullness to emptiness. Have mercy on us. Order our lives by your holy Word, and make your commandments the joy of our hearts. Conform us to the image of your loving Son, Jesus, that we may shine before the world to your glory. Amen.

(From Psalm 5)

All: Hear our words and our groanings, O Lord.Give attention to our cry for mercy.

Minister: You are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you.
The boastful shall not stand before your eyes;you hate all evildoers.
You destroy those who speak lies; you abhor the bloodthirsty and deceitful.

All: But, O Lord, we are evildoers.
We are boastful, deceitful and bloodthirsty.

Minister: By your mercy alone,
by the abundance of your steadfast love
may we enter your house.

All: Because of your Son, O Lord,
let us find refuge in you.
Take away our sins and let us sing for joy.
Cover us with your favor as with a shield.
For the sake of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Holy Father, you see us as we are, and know our inmost thoughts. We confess that we are unworthy of your gracious care. We forget that all life comes from you and that to you all life returns. We have not sought to do your will with our whole hearts. We have not lived as grateful children, nor loved as Christ loved us. Apart from you, we are nothing. Only your grace can sustain us. Lord, in your mercy, forgive us, heal us, and make us whole. Set us free from our sin, and restore us to the joy of your salvation now and forever. Amen.

Almighty and most merciful Father, we have erred and strayed from Your ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against Your holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; and we have done those things which we ought not to have done; and there is no health in us. O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare those, O God, who confess their faults. Restore those who are penitent; according to Your promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord. Grant that we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life; to the glory of His holy name. Amen.

We confess, our Father, that we do not live up to the family name.
We are more ready to resent than to forgive,
more ready to manipulate than to serve,
more ready to fear than to love,
more ready to keep our distance than to welcome,
more ready to compete than to help.
At the root of this behavior is mistrust.
We do not love one another as we should,
because we do not believe that you love us as you do.
Forgive us our cold unbelief.
And make more vivid to us the meaning and depth of your love at the cross.
Show us what it cost you to give up your Son
that we might become your sons and daughters.
We ask this in the name of Jesus our righteousness.

Father in heaven, we need to be forgiven.
We have tried to heal ourselves.
Instead of trusting in the death of Jesus Christ,
we have tried to work off our guilt.
We have tried so hard to pile up good deeds that outweigh our sins.
When this doesn’t work, we quickly turn to denial and distraction.
Instead of trusting in the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
we have tried to change through our own efforts.
We have tried to change our hearts through sheer willpower.
This has left some of us arrogant.
This has left most of us anxious and depressed.
Forgive us for trying to heal ourselves.
Forgive us for neglecting your grace.
Forgive us and heal us, for Jesus' sake. Amen.

Father of mercies, we confess that we have sinned against you. By your Holy Spirit, come and work repentance into our hearts. Help us to see you as you are: with outstretched arms, a loving heart, and power to save. Help us to see Jesus, the friend of sinners, and to follow him more faithfully. As we have received him, so strengthen us to walk in him, depend on him, commune with him, and be conformed to him. Give us an experience of your grace that makes us bold for others, that we might joyfully tell our friends and neighbors of your saving mercy. Amen.

Father of the Fatherless
Almighty Father, God of gods and Lord of lords,
Father to the fatherless, Husband to the widow,
Defender of the helpless, Judge of all the earth,
have mercy on us.
We have not sought freedom for the oppressed, even
though you freed us.
We have not bound up the broken even though you
healed us.
We have not forgiven others even though you forgave us.
We withhold kindness from the needy even though you
freely gave us your own Son.
We are without excuse, but not without hope.
By your power and grace, account our sins to Jesus’
bloody death and amend our ways by the power of his
glorious resurrection.

O Righteous and Holy Sovereign,
In whose hand is my life and whose are all my ways,
Keep me from fluttering about religion;
fix me firm in it, for I am irresolute,
my decisions are smoke and vapor
and I do not glorify you, or behave according to Your will,
Cut me not off before my thoughts grow to responses,
and the budding of my soul into full flower,
for you are forbearing and good, patient and kind.
Save me from myself,
from the artifices and deceits of sin,
from the treachery of my perverse nature,
from denying your charge against my offenses,
from a life of continual rebellion against you,
from wrong principles, views, and ends;
for I know that all my thoughts, affections,
desires and pursuits are alienated from you.
I have acted as if I hated you, although you are love itself;
have contrived to tempt you to the uttermost,
to wear out your patience;
have lived evilly in word and action.
Had I been a prince
I would long ago have crushed such a rebel;
Had I been a father
I would long since have rejected my child.
O Father of my spirit, King of my life,
cast me not into destruction,
drive me not from your presence,
but wound my heart that it may be healed;
break it that your own hand may make it whole. Amen.


O Lord, our great God, all holy,
Father most gracious, filled with mercy and steadfast love,
We are ashamed and embarrassed to come before you,
For we have preferred the ways of this world to your ways,
We have rebelled against your wisdom and have invited trouble,
We have rejected your fatherly guidance and have gotten lost altogether.

O Lord, our great God, all holy, filled with awe,
Father most gracious, filled with mercy and steadfast love,
Incline your ear to our troubles.
Hear us as we pour out our sorrows to you.
Forgive us,
Not because of our own righteousness,
But because of your great mercy.
Because of your great mercy in the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ.

It is in his name that we pray, for he is our Savior,
and the mediator of the covenant of grace.

Minister: O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the
work of your hands. Forgive us, Lord, for how we have corrupted your good

All: Gracious Lord, you alone are righteous and holy, and in your presence no one can
stand. Your gracious mercy is our only hope and we ask for your forgiveness. We
pray for your cleansing touch to wash away our corruption, clothe us in
righteousness, and for your hands to rework our lives anew. We pray these things
in Jesus Christ's holy name. Amen

There may be copyrights on some of these, and I would be glad to remove them if this is the case, so let me know.


Here are a few more texts that indicate confession of sin is highly appropriate in the context of public/corporate worship:

Lev. 16 -- the Day of Atonement is in the context of the Church gathered for worship. Confession of sin was part of the worship instituted by God for our brothers and sisters who were looking ahead by faith to the coming Messiah who would once and for all time atone for their sins.

2 Chr. 6 -- Solomon praying corporately "before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the assembly".

Ezra 9-10 -- Ezra and the people confessed their sin together "before the house of God".

Neh. 9 -- The people of Israel corporately "made confession and worshipped the LORD their God."

Psalms 1-150 -- Though not all psalms are confessions of sin, there are many throughout. The psalms were certainly meant for corporate worship.

Acts 2:42 -- Surely "the prayers" would have included confessions of sin corporately as the Church after Pentecost gathered together for worship.

Rev. 2:5 -- Jesus is sending a letter to the "church" in Ephesus. And He is commanding them to corporately "remember" or confess where they had failed and to corporately return to their "first love".

(Scripture Texts HT: Chad Bailey)

Related Essay
What are We Missing in Our Worship?: A confession of sin and an assurance of pardoning grace that accompanies it. by Jason Helopoulos,

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