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Image courtesy of  tratong/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In the sermon I heard in church this morning a question I had asked several months ago came up as a topic of discussion. The church I belong to suggests we pray a series of prayers and read accompanying scripture 3-4 times daily. Included in each prayer session is a prayer of confession apologizing and asking God for forgiveness for our sins and promising our repentance. Today in our adult bible study class we learned that repentance is more than an attitude—-it also means actively turning away from what one is repenting.  The question I had previously asked was why  do we need to confess four times a day? My reason for asking the question was that I am uncomfortable asking for forgiveness when I promised “not to sin again” just a few hours earlier.  I am reminded of the story of the little boy that cried wolf too many times, when he finally did spy a wolf and run to tell the people in his village they wouldn’t take his warning seriously. By repeatedly confessing, asking for forgiveness, and promising to repent several times a day, do I not run the risk of God not taking me seriously—-or worse yet, not taking myself seriously?

The answer I was given to this question,  both at the time the priest and I had our conversation and again in this morning’s sermon, was basically that since we are imperfect humans we  tend to sin whether we realize it or not; hence the need to repeatedly confess and repent. I still have a bit of trouble with this philosophy. If repentance is based on a sincere apology and a promise not to do something again, wouldn’t we need to consciously know what sin  we were apologizing for in order  to avoid repeating it?

When I turn my will and my life over to the care of my Higher Power as I understand him, I need to  begin looking at my past and present actions to identify things I have done or am doing that hurt myself or others.  According to AA’s 12 steps, one then needs to  “make amends” and change one’s  behavior accordingly.  If I am sincere about changing something in my life, I ask for knowledge of God’s will and the power to carry it out on a one day at a time basis. And, yes, I often repeat that prayer several times a day.  AA’s 12 steps suggest we take a careful look at what we have done each day and make amends in a timely fashion. Nowhere in AA’s “Big Book” have I read a suggestion that we ask God to forgive our mistakes, promise not to do them, and then repeat the exact same prayer three more times in the same day.

Now that I’ve gotten that “rant” off my chest, I need to look at what is really important for me to realize in the midst of all this spiritual “free association.” Obviously, I and my self-pride are the problem. I doubt God is bothered by repeated requests for forgiveness and promises to repent. It is my pride/ego that resists “humbling” myself that often. I need to get over myself and  ask my Higher Power to forgive me for thinking I am above asking for forgiveness several times a day.  In reading what I have written so far, it is also obvious that many of my sins fall in the realm of attitude and false pride. My character defect of procrastination also lands a lot of my “sins” in the “things left undone” category. I need to “open the bridge” between God’s love and forgiveness and myself by being willing to ask for and receive it more  often than I do—–especially since I tend to deny my sins and not recognize them until I force myself to take a serious “mental inventory.”  Perhaps following a discipline of structured prayer sessions throughout the day may offer me a way to cultivate this habit.  May God bless and keep you.

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