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To Be United Methodist: Why do we have prayers of confession in worship?

 

Joe Iovino
July-August 2016

Why do we have prayers of confession in worship?
Isn't asking forgiveness just between me and God?

We can go to God in prayer at any time to acknowledge our failures and struggles, and ask for God's forgiveness. However, many United Methodists find strength and support in confession to one another as well as to God.

Sin is a persistent force in our lives. The good news is that when we confess our sin, God promises to forgive us (1 John 1:9).

While The United Methodist Church does not consider confession a sacrament, we know our need to confess our sin before God and one another.

As they gather for worship, United Methodists often offer a prayer of confession. Through spoken prayer and a time of silent prayer, we confess our sinfulness before God.

The confession should be followed by a declaration of pardon. Confession and pardon together remind us that we are sinners saved by grace.

Many United Methodists who gather in small groups find confessing their sin to one another brings support and spiritual growth. People in our lives who pray for us, cheer us on and ask how things are going are a source of strength as we confront temptation. Many Christians find strength in being accountable to their vows to live as Christ would have us live.

John Wesley recommended that Methodists meet weekly with approximately five people in a band, where they would confess their sins to one another. He said the bands followed the command of God to "confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another that ye may be healed" (James 5:16).

In worship, small groups and anytime we choose, United Methodists confess our sins before God and one another. When we do, God forgives us and we receive strength to be, in the words of Wesley, "more and more dead to sin, (and) more and more alive to God" (from "The Scripture Way of Salvation").

Excerpted from a feature by the Rev. Joe Iovino of United Methodist Communications, originally published at UMC.org on Nov. 9, 2015.