How To Exercise The Sacrament of Repentance By Fr. Anthony Conroe
“And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds.” Acts 19:18
“If we confess our sins, He is Faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” John 1:9
Note that in the sacrament of repentance, confession is not a mere enumeration of sins delivered in phrases in the presence of a priest, even if these phrases express the truth. But motive is of utmost importance, a true and honest repentance. Meaning the motive for it is a deep feeling of regret and sorrow for sins you committed and in the meantime a strong desire for forgiveness and an honest determination to change behavior.
Note that the pouring of your sins in the confession session is before GOD and not before man, for the holy spirit is in attendance to listen and to forgive. Refer to the incident of Achan son of Carmi, (Joshua 7:19) and the incident of Ananias and Sapphira. (Acts 5:3)
As you proceed to confess, you have to be ready for this matter either by preparing your mind or by outlining on a piece of paper the sins you would like to confess, and the questions you would like to ask your Father of Confession (the Priest). For this reason it is absolutely necessary that you first sit with yourself and go over your weaknesses, truthfully, and in a very frank manner in order to be able to pinpoint your sins and shortcomings which you have repented of and are about to confess. See Life Of Repentance And Purity by H.H. Pope Shenouda III Pages 107-114.
Confess your sins and falls from memory or from your notes and be alert not to hide anything, no matter how ugly or embarrassing the sin is. “He is faithful and just to forgive your sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9), and also “He that covers his sins shall not prosper, but who so confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy.” (Proverbs 28:12)
As you sit before your Father (The Priest), avoid being a favorite of his, do not mention your sins as if telling a story or bringing some news, but do so with conviction and reverence. Do not give yourself excuses, and do not give your sins a different cover or name because of embarrassment or shame. Openly tell your Father all your sins, even if it is something you have said or done against him. Listen carefully and accept his advice, and if the latter is difficult for you, frankly tell him so.
A Prayer Before Confession
O Holy Father, who awaits the returns of sinners, You gave Your promise that You are ready to accept those who repent. Look now to a soul that was lost in the valleys of disobedience. For a long time I have tested the bitterness of misery, being away from the stream of salvation. Now I am back to You to be purified, accept and not reject me, for when You look at me with mercy and compassion, I will be cleansed and saved. If You turn away, I shall perish. Grant me, O Lord; Your blessing to strengthen my will to come closer to You in faith and hope, to confess my sins, and detest returning to them. May Your Holy Spirit remind me not to stray. May you enlighten my heart so I can see the graveness of my sins and negligence and have the will to obey your commandments and live for the glory of Your Holy Name. Amen.
You should begin your confession by saying:
“Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son ( daughter). But Father, please ask God to forgive me of my many sins for He knows that I have sinned and repented now confess. I have…”
You should end your confession by saying:
|”Father, please ask God to forgive me of the sins I have confessed and ask Him to convict me of the sins that I cannot remember.”
A Prayer After Confession
O Father, I am grateful for Your goodness and love for mankind. You did not wish that I perish but awakened me from my sleep and guided me to your path. You saved me from the valley of death to the protection of Your strong fortress. Fill me with hope and faith, I come to You like the sick wishing to be healed, like the hungry seeking to be filled, like the thirsty to the springs of the water of life, like the poor to the source of riches and the sinner to the redeemer and like the dying to the origin of life. You are my salvation, my health, my life, and my strength. With You, I find consolation, happiness and comfort. Help me, protect me, and surround me with Your goodness. Teach me to put my will in Your hands and live according to Your will. Remove my weakness so I may be firm and honest to You to the end. Amen.
It is better for you to be alone following the confession to meditate and realize how good and merciful the Lord was and is to you so you can benefit from this spiritual experience.