Confession in the Lutheran Church is a sorta/kinda sacrament. Dr Luther never really tried to decide on it one way or the other, but whether it’s a sacrament per se, it is still a vitally important part of every worship. Every Lutheran worship begins with corporate confession and absolution. Lutherans also encourage individual confession. I must admit that at the beginning of my fifth year of ministry, I have not had a lot of participation, frankly hardly any, but I will faithfully be available for confession. I schedule every Thursday at 5:30, you don’t have to be Lutheran either.
My first experience with individual confession was at Seminary where the Seminary Chaplain held weekly confession. I found it to be a great way to come before the Lord, His minister, and face the sins that I’ve been committing. Through His minister I am assured of my forgiveness and the knowledge that my sins shouldn’t hinder my life and keep me focused on keeping on the track of the plan He has for me. I would point out that in the individual confession liturgy it’s not necessary to enumerate each sin, you can, but I think that until there is high level of trust and comfort between the confessor and the one hearing the confession. Even if you don’t enumerate the sin, the assurance of God’s minister in front of you telling you you’re forgiven and absolving you strengthens and encourages you.
One thing I do want to remind the reader, confession is not the only part, there’s also repentance. I have heard people get this arrogant attitude “I don’t confess my sins to any man!” Yea sounds all self-righteous and all about me, but it’s arrogant, we are told to confess our sins to each other: James 5:16- “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” Hmmm, not to God, but to each other, why?
Now Rev’s Blackaby and I might disagree a little here, or this might be hair splitting, but James tells us to “confess” to each other, not to the Father. Why? When we confess we are telling someone who does not know anything about our act, we may be confessing to them for forgiveness, or to a brother or pastor, who we trust, very much, who can give us the assurance we need. We don’t confess to the Father, we repent to the Father. In the sense of: “Father I know you know my sin and I am raising it up to you in heartfelt repentance and asking for your forgiveness.”
I do like their discussion on prayer; “Significantly, James linked confession with prayer. Your prayers will be hindered if you hold on to unconfessed sin. When James promised that the ‘effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much,’ he did so in the context of confession. If you wish to have a powerful prayer life, you must regularly confess your sin. Only when there are no obstacles separating you from God and others will your prayers be effective.” (Henry and Richard Blackaby “Experiencing God Day by Day” p 272). God hears the prayer of the Christian believer. But I do think that sin inhibits us and since our sin is taking us out of God’s plan, His will, that it does tend to nullify our prayers, like any sin in a relationship, sin does tend to strain and even put a kink in the relationship. I’m not saying that God is going to ignore your prayers out of spite, or it somehow overrides the fact that we are completely righteous in Christ, but I am saying that the Holy Spirit is working in us and it seems logical that our sin can disrupt and derail that work, so we are simply not in God’s will and our prayers aren’t in accordance with His will. “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (John 14:13) When we ask in His Name, we ask according to His will, tough to do if we aren’t acting in His will.
“Confession is not a sign of weakness; it is evidence of your refusal to allow sin to remain in your life.”(Ibid) I may disagree to the extent that we will always have sin, but to the extent of asking God for help to overcome the sin at issue, and to move on in His will I would agree. It certainly is a consideration that when I go back to prayer and really haven’t dealt with a sin that will be hanging over my head and be something of a barrier. The sooner God absolves me sometimes through His minister, the sooner He can begin His work and I can move in my life according to His will.
We are called to confess and repent, when we do, we know we are focused on God’s will, we know that we are forgiven and in God’s will, reminded of our forgiveness through Christ. Blackaby suggest that “if you want to have a powerful prayer life, you must regularly confess your sin.” That may be a little legalistic, but I think regular confession would certainly enhance and make your prayer life more meaningful and certainly enhance all aspects of your life in Jesus. But we are told to confess and repent and when we obey is there any doubt we grow in Christian life and maturity?