Week 3 Repentance: Cleaning Our Messy House

Lectionary Readings for Third Sunday in Lent
Isaiah 55:1-9; Psalm 63:1-8; 1 Corinthians 10:1-13; Luke 13:1-9

Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let us return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on us, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.  Isaiah 55:6-7

In her book Amazing Grace, Kathleen Norris tells the story of working as an artist-in-residence at a parochial school, teaching children how to write poetry using the Psalms as a model. One little boy wrote a poem entitled “The Monster Who Was Sorry.” He began by admitting that he hates it when his father yells at him: his response (in the poem) is to throw his sister down the stairs, and then to wreck his room, and finally to wreck the whole town. The poem concludes, “Then I sit in my messy house and say to myself, ‘I shouldn’t have done all that.’”

“My messy house” says it all, Norris observes. “With more honesty than most adults could have mustered, the boy made a metaphor for himself that admitted the depth of his rage and gave him a way out… he was well on his way toward repentance, not a monster after all, but only human. If the house is messy, why not clean it up? Why not make it into a place where God might wish to dwell?”3

During Lent we enter more intentionally into prayer, self-examination and repentance for the purpose of restoration and renewal. We are willing to sit in our messy house and get a little more honest about the fact that we are in disarray. To the best of our ability we acknowledge what got us into the mess we are in, we feel our remorse, and we say, “I wish I hadn’t done that.”

This week we offer a prayer of repentance that might help you identify some of the messy places in your heart and life. Allow at least a half an hour to pray through this prayer so that you can incorporate time for silence after each confession. Ask God to reveal areas where repentance is needed…specific instances in which a particular sin pattern might have demonstrated itself in your life. Do not feel that you have to “get something” for each one. Allow this exercise to be characterized by gentle openness rather than pushing or forcing. Let God do the revealing and conclude with the refrain (Have mercy on me, Lord) and move on to the next confession.

Most holy and merciful Father:
I confess to you
that I have sinned by my own fault
in thought, word and deed; by what I have done, and by what I have left undone.

I have not loved you with my whole heart, mind and strength.
I have not loved my neighbors as myself.
I have not forgiven others, as I have been forgiven.

Have mercy on me, Lord.

I have been deaf to your call to serve as Christ served us. I have not been true to the mind of Christ. I have grieved your Holy Spirit.

Have Mercy on me, Lord.

I confess to you, Lord, all my past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of my life.

I confess to you, Lord.

My self-indulgent appetites and ways, and my exploitation of others,

I confess to you, Lord.

My anger at my own frustration, and my envy of those more fortunate than I,

I confess to you, Lord.

My love of worldly goods and comforts, my dishonesty in daily life and work,

I confess to you, Lord.

Accept my repentance, Lord, for the wrongs I have done: for my blindness to human need and suffering, and my indifference to injustice and cruelty,

Accept my repentance, Lord.

For all false judgments, uncharitable thoughts toward my neighbors, and for my prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from me,

Accept my repentance, Lord.

Restore me, good Lord, and let your anger depart from me.
Favorably hear me for your mercy is great.

Accomplish in me and in all your church the work of your salvation,
That I may show forth your glory in the world.

By the cross and passion of your Son, our Lord, bring me, with all your saints, to the joy of his resurrection. Amen.

©Ruth Haley Barton, 2013.  Not to be used without permission. Prayer adapted from Phyllis Tickle, Eastertide: Prayers for Lent through Easter (New York: Random House, 2004), p. 187,188.

Ruth is founder of the Transforming Center, and author of Pursuing God’s Will Together, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, Sacred Rhythms, and Invitation to Solitude and Silence (InterVarsity Press).

Lent Calendar (Cycle C) and guidance for using the lectionary

Read the post Lent Week 2: Self Denial: Setting Our Minds on Things Above by clicking here.

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Ruth Haley Barton

Ruth (Doctor of Divinity, Northern Seminary) is founder and chief essence officer of the Transforming Center. A teacher, seasoned spiritual director (Shalem Institute), and retreat leader, Ruth is the author of numerous books and resources on the spiritual life including Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, Sacred Rhythms, Life Together in Christ, Pursuing God’s Will Together, Invitation to Solitude and Silence, Invitation to Retreat, and Embracing Rhythms of Work and Rest.
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Thank you for this wonderful prayer. It was refreshing to my soul, and voiced the cry of my heart.

So glad! It’s a meaty prayer, that’s for sure, if one really prays it.

Hi, wondering if I can share this with my facebook group for those on God’s mission in their neighbourhoods.


You can use the grey facebook icon right above the comments to share with the opportunity to share a comment about what you are sharing. If you click the Facebook “Like” button in blue it will also go on your facebook page but you won’t have the opportunity to write your own introductory comment.

I have taken the liberty of adding a sentence to the confession for my own use. I know pray, ” I have not loved you with my whole heart. I HAVE NOT LOVED MYSELF AS YOU LOVE ME. I have not loved my neighbor as myself.” This helps me connect the appropriation of my “belovedness” as a daily discipline to my ability to love others with Gods love. It gets my true self involved in the loving cycle.
Thank you for these reflections. god is Good!

Wonderful addition! Glad you took the liberty…

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