A few years back, I preached a series of sermons on the Ten Commandments and wrote a prayer of confession based on each commandment.
This year I, used those prayers again and added a corresponding prayer of lament for each commandment. I find the balance of confession and lament to be very helpful.
First and foremost, I think it's extremely important for us to confess the sin and evil in our own hearts and lives. Doing so reminds us of our need for a Savior and fills us with gratitude for the work of Christ Jesus, who forgives us and makes us new. I also think it's good for us to bring before God the sin and evil around us. That reminds of us our world's need for Christ and His return and can help us reflect on the effects of sin on our world (including the effects of our sins on others).
I often learn and borrow from others as I lead congregational prayer, so I'm posting these prayers here in the hope that they will be helpful to others. Please feel free to copy, modify, or riff on these prayers for your own use (no need to credit me) or even be inspired to write and share your own. (Note: confessions are in regular type; laments are in italics.)
Heavenly Father, you are God, and there is no other; you are God, and there is none like you. But we confess that sometimes we follow false gods. We cling to superstitions; we trust in wealth or work or one another to provide for us instead of you; we love ourselves and the things of this world more than you. Forgive us. Help us worship, serve, and honor you with all our hearts. In the name of Jesus our Savior we pray.
God our Father, how long will you let those who deny you mock and mistreat your chosen ones? How long will you allow those who say there is no God to devour your people and spread corruption throughout the earth? Frustrate the ways of the wicked; bring vile plans to ruin. Display your righteousness and power for all the world to see. Be a refuge for your poor servants, and vindicate us before our foes. Through Jesus, who suffered and was vindicated for our salvation. Amen.
Heavenly Father, you call us to worship you in spirit and in truth, bringing you our praises and prayers through Christ Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. But we confess that we often make our worship more about ourselves and what we want than about you and what you want. You reveal yourself to us in your Word, but sometimes we reduce you to inadequate images we make in our minds, focusing on your characteristics that we like and ignoring your attributes that we don’t like. Please forgive us. Help our worship honor you for what you have done and how you have made yourself known to us through Jesus our Savior.
Only God, we cry out to you, for your people suffer at the hands of others. As human beings pursue false gods of wealth, power, comfort, and progress, those who are poor and weak are used and discarded or simply run over. While the successful, beautiful, clever, and popular are idolized, others are labeled “undesirable” and “worthless” or ignored altogether. How long must people you love, people made in your image, be mocked, taken advantage of, left without help or hope? Show yourself to be God. Defend the lowly and needy, for you alone can save. Establish your justice and spread your love. We look to you, for those who trust in you will never be put to shame. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
God our Father, we confess that we often misuse your name. Sometimes we use your name without thinking or when we are angry or to make ourselves seem more impressive. We often take all the credit for things we could not have done without your help. Sometimes we wrongly claim that our ideas and causes are yours. Please forgive us. Help us to praise and glorify you with respect, and may our lives as Christians reflect well on you, bringing honor to the name of Christ Jesus our Savior.
Holy God, how long will you tolerate people using your name as a weapon to harm others? Do not stand by while leaders who claim to represent you wield their power to line their own pockets or sexually exploit the innocent. How long will your name be used as a shield by those who declare their own false teachings to be your truth? Silence the tongues of deceivers; break the power of abusers. Rise up, O God! Display your goodness and righteousness so that all people may bring you glory through Jesus our Lord. Amen.
Heavenly Father, you promise to provide for us, and you give us the gift of rest. But so often we place our trust in our own work and our own efforts. Many times we fill our lives with busyness because we think that will give us security, and our busyness crowds you out of our lives. Please forgive us. Help us set aside time for you, gathering for worship, listening for your voice, seeking your face. Teach us to rest and rely on you and so build up our trust in you through Jesus, our Savior.
Loving God, you are our Master. We long for the full experience of the freedom of serving you, but many of us feel like we cannot rest. How long will some of your people be denied rest by unfair jobs and bosses that demand extra work? How long must some of your children live in situations that require working multiple jobs just to cover the bills? Provide us with stable employment and fair wages. Rescue those trapped in poverty and care for our needs so that we may gratefully rest in your abundant goodness. Through our Lord Jesus, Amen.
Heavenly Father, you place parents and other authority figures in our lives to train us to do good and to keep us from evil. But often we disobey or ignore our parents and we disrespect or insult the authorities. Sometimes, too, we misuse our own authority by neglecting or mistreating the people we should care for. Please forgive us. Help us honor and submit to proper authority and use our authority responsibly through Jesus our Savior.
Our Lord and our King, we cry out to you alongside those who suffer under the power of authority figures who control, intimidate, and abuse. How long will corrupt governments and officials silence opponents and terrorize citizens? How long will parents and caretakers belittle, hit, and violate your children? Turn your face toward those who live in fear, and defend the weak and innocent. In your power and justice, destroy the influence of the wicked. Humble and reform those who are cruel. Rule us with your fatherly care. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Heavenly Father, you created us in your image; our lives are precious to you. But we have so many ways of harming each other. Through carelessness we sometimes put others in danger. Often we let hatred, revenge, and unjustified anger simmer in our hearts. Sometimes we act violently or threaten others or put them down or wish misery upon them. In doing these things we really begin to walk the path of murder. Please forgive us. Help us to love, protect, and do good to one another. In the name of Jesus, who died so we may live.
God who knit us together in our mothers’ wombs, how long will human beings suffer and die at the hands of our fellow humans? How long will war, revenge, contempt, and sheer brutality claim the lives of people you have made? How long will people you love endure beatings, threats, insults, and disdainful indifference that rob them of safety, dignity, and health? Bring us your peace. Frustrate the schemes of the violent; restrain our human rage. Teach our world the value of human life. In the name of your Son, who became human. Amen.
Heavenly Father, you created us male and female, and you give us the gifts of marriage and sex. But we confess that we do not always live faithfully with those gifts. Often we let our sexual desires run wild: we fantasize, we tell dirty jokes, we look at pornography, we treat others as objects for our own pleasure. In our lust, we sometimes give away to others the intimacy, affection, and bodies that rightfully belong only to our spouses, or we try to take what is not ours. Please forgive us. Help us to be pure in body and soul; purify our thoughts, desires, words, and actions through Jesus our Savior.
God, you tell your people that our bodies are made for you, but so many of your people suffer terrible harm because of sexual sins. How long will people you have created―particularly women and even children―be sexualized, exploited, used, and trafficked through pornography and the sex industry or simply to sell products or make money? How long will people you love endure shame, trauma, and feelings of powerlessness because of harassment, unwanted touch, assault, and rape? Bring hope, healing, and support to survivors of sexual violence and misconduct. Stop and convict those who commit and allow such evils. Don’t let us accept or normalize wrongdoing. Transform our world with your holiness and compassion. In the name of Jesus, who bought us to be His own. Amen.
Heavenly Father, the earth is yours, and everything in it, the world and all who live in it. You give us gifts and entrust us with possessions. But we confess that we are often greedy, wanting more and more. Sometimes we take what is not ours or cheat others out of what is theirs, both in our thoughts and in reality. Often we waste your gifts or hoard them instead of sharing with those in need. Please forgive us. Help us gain our possessions honestly and make good use of your gifts to help others as well as ourselves. Through Jesus, our Savior.
God of abundant goodness and glorious riches, how long must your children be cheated and robbed by others who are crafty and greedy? How long will those who are wealthy and secure waste food, squander clean water, and buy more things they don’t need while ignoring those who cry out for food and drink, for clothing and shelter? Break through our selfish, discontent materialism with your generous compassion and just mercy. Reform our hearts and our society so that all your children may do your work and enjoy your blessings. Through Jesus, who became poor so that we may become rich in you, Amen.
Heavenly Father, you call us to walk in the truth, but we confess that we are often all too comfortable with lies. Sometimes we fib and stretch the truth to make ourselves look better. At times we misrepresent what others say and gossip and spread rumors to make them look worse. Often we mislead others by giving our opinions as facts or hurt others with thoughtless complaints and insults. Please forgive us. Help us to speak the truth and use our words to encourage others and protect their reputations. In the name of Jesus, our Redeemer.
Spirit of truth, we cry to you, for we live in a world filled with lies. How long will your people be misled, deceived, and fooled by those looking to manipulate or get ahead of us? How long must the innocent have their reputations destroyed by slander, false accusations, and malicious insinuations? How long will you allow the wicked to hide the truth? Fill the earth with your truth and grace. Defend the upright and guide us to what is good and right through Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Amen.
Good and Gracious Father, you created this good world and teach us how to live in it. But we confess that our desires are often sinful. Many times what we want is not what you want for us. We frequently want what we should not have: things that belong to others, people that aren’t our spouses, misfortune for others, too many good things all to ourselves. Often we do not desire you and your good spiritual gifts as much as we should. Please forgive us. Give us a well-ordered heart and proper desires. Through Jesus, our Savior.
Sovereign God, why must evil flourish? How long will the nations celebrate what is wicked and hateful in your sight? Humanity tries to claim that right and wrong are relative, but we long for true justice. When others do as they please to and around us, we experience injustices and hurts: betrayal, hostility, discrimination, cruelty, ridicule, trauma and scars. We long for wrongs to be set right, so we cry to you, for you alone can bring life and wholeness. Judge the earth with the justice and mercy you’ve shown us in Christ. Destroy immorality’s sway in human hearts and fill the world with a desire for your ways, through Jesus, the Redeemer and Judge. Amen.