A Not-So-Common Prayer

Recently I attended a worship service in Anchorage of a church not my own.  As a pastor, the opportunity to do so occurs rarely. 
My experience was a positive one.  In Rabbit Creek Church (my church) and the church I visited, Christ is preached and the people welcome members and visitors warmly.  We share much in common. 

Some non-essential differences exist as well.  For example, while I preach in jeans, the other pastor wears a clerical robe.  As another example, during the Lord's Supper at my church, each person drinks from an individual cup; on that Sunday's visit, I drank from the common cup.  (Wine rather than Welch's makes that possible.)

During the worship service that day (and I assume every Sunday), the pastor drew our attention as a congregation to The Book of Common Prayer.  We turned to the page to which he asked us to turn and we, in unison, read the following prayer . . .
Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. 
We are truly sorry and humbly repent. 
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name.  Amen.

I dare not attempt to guess or write of any other congregant's thoughts that morning.  However, I will write here of my own.
- First, I determined to actually pray the words we read.
- Second, I focused, by no initial thought of my own, on the words "what we have left undone."  The words challenged me.  They challenged me to acknowledge my sins of omission.

If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.     James 4:17 (NIV)
- Third, another phrase penetrated my heart.
"We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves."
There we read a confession that we have not fully kept the greatest of all commands, and Jesus' command at that.  Before reading that sentence, I knew those words to be true.  However, upon reading them, I felt them.

As I write now, to these three thoughts I add a fourth. 
- Fourth, I wonder just how common is this prayer found in The Book of Common Prayer.  Perhaps, in reality, the prayer is not so common.  Confessions are after all, well, difficult to confess.
"Yes, I did break that."
"No, I didn't keep my promise."
"Yes, I was wrong to . . ."
"No, I didn't tell the truth."

"We [I] have not loved you with our [my] whole heart;
we [I] have not loved our [my] neighbors as ourselves [myself]."

None of those confessions flow easily from one's [my] mouth.

I'm glad I visited my fellow Alaskan Christ-loving church.  I am thankful for The Book of Common Prayer.  I consider it a blessing that I read (and prayed) the not-so-common prayer.


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