Some practical advice on devotions, post 3: "Humbling Ourselves"

In devotions, it is vitally important that we take at least a little time reminding ourselves of God's grace and how much we need him. As I have said, I use the Book of Common Prayer for devotions because I like the way it structures things. It is certainly not the only way to do devotions, but it works for me.

My typical devotions go from Getting Oriented (an introductory sentence that serves to help me get oriented and a prayer of intention) to humbling myself before God. Humbling means confessing my weakness and sin. "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6).

Christians often swing to extremes with confession. We either walk around shackled by guilt or we don't bother with confession at all. Either way makes it difficult to grow past our sins. If we carry guilt, we don't allow ourselves to grow. Chronic guilt is often related to self-sabotage. On the other hand, if we don't acknowledge our sins, we never develop the focus to grow past them. And growth does take focus.

How can we find a happy middle ground? I think it is right there in the practice of the church: we humble ourselves, confess our sins and weaknesses to God, and then receive his forgiveness right on the spot. Then we don't have to carry those things around for the rest of the day.

Here is the prayer of confession from the Book of Common Prayer. I like it because it covers all the bases from sins of commission to sins of omission, and it focuses me on the Great Commandments to love God and love my neighbor. I need to come back to the Great Commandments every day.

A prayer of confession:
"Most merciful God, I confess that I have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what I have done
and by what I have left undone.
I have not loved you with my whole heart.
I have not loved my neighbor as myself.
I am truly sorry, and I humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus, have mercy on me and forgive me,
that I might delight in your will
and walk in your ways
to the glory of your name."

Pausing over various places in this prayer has been of great help many days!

I make sure I don't stop with confession. This is an interaction with God that ends in me receiving his forgiveness. In a liturgical church service, the priest would pronounce forgiveness over the people. In private devotions, I open my hands and receive God's grace. I pray a prayer that goes like this:

"Loving Father, I thank you for forgiving me. Please strengthen me in all goodness and keep me in eternal life. Amen."


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