The central belief in Christian thought is that through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross we are forgiven. How we are forgiven or what we are forgiven for is perhaps open to more debate or interpretation. The theology of atonement is an area of study which seeks to shed light on how Christ’s death allows the working out of our forgiveness.
That we need forgiveness and the saving grace of Jesus Christ is not in doubt. Neither is the need to confess before God why we need forgiveness. Confession of our sin is a central part of Christian faith, it is a part of our discipleship. The ways in which our relationship with God is broken, the ways in which our relationship with our neighbours and creation is damaged requires acknowledgment. We are required to search our own hearts and minds for the ways in which our thoughts and actions have been contrary to the heart and mind of God.
A place in scripture where we can find an example of confession through prayer is in Psalm 51. Here David comes before God after he recognizes the wrong he has committed with Bathsheba. A link to the entire Psalm is provided, however the first twelve versus should serve as an introduction to a powerful way to come before God in heartfelt prayer.
Psalm 51: 1-12
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
and blameless when you pass judgment.
Indeed, I was born guilty,
a sinner when my mother conceived me.
You desire truth in the inward being;
therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit.