Confession Song Based on the Book of Common Prayer

Zac HicksSongwriting, Worship ResourcesLeave a Comment

I want to share with you a little bit about what drove us to write and record “Most Merciful God” off our EP, His Be the Victor’s Name. (You can listen to the song below.)

When I arrived at Coral Ridge, one of the things that I and the other leadership began to discover is that God was leading us into a season of expanding our worship vocabulary. Particularly, we discerned that our church needed to be able to have a wider range of expression for the way that we confessed our sin and lamented the brokenness of the world. 

In the immediate years prior, Coral Ridge had not had much regular language for confession, and we knew that for some people from some backgrounds the idea of confession in a worship service would feel foreign and maybe even a little too “spooky-turgical.” Over the years, I’ve discovered a consistent bridge that modern worship leaders can employ when they get the bug to introduce content into the worship that may be a bit foreign: make it a song. Sing that element.

Why We Must Confess

Time and again, I’ve seen people’s guard come down when they are able to sing it. Perhaps this is because singing bypasses some of the normal filter-processes and goes straight to the heart. In all honesty, I do think that one of the regular “oughts” of a worship service is Confession of Sin, but I also know that some traditions have fostered the (ultimately soul-killing) idea that worship is supposed to be happy, joyful, and uplifting. I don’t disagree with that idea. In fact, worship’s uplifting, joyful nature is another “ought” for me. But the big question I have is, “How does the Bible say we get there?”

How do we get to a place of true joy in worship? When will our worship services feel most uplifting? It happens most accutely when worship is Christ-centered in the deepest sense…which means that it is Christ-mediated. We must come to the end of ourselves to recognize that we can’t mediate our own worship. We can’t usher ourselves into the service. We must be brought in by the covering of Another. Christ must stand in the gap. The end-of-myself moment in worship happens when we confess our sin, when we say, “I have no right to stand before You in worship, God; in fact, the one thing I deserve now is your righteous judgment and wrath.” As long as we hang on to a sense of worthiness and fitness, we’ve come to worship with far too much bravado. (I discussed this idea in a post a few months back, “Do I Qualify for Worship?“)

Coral Ridge, being a church that champions the message of the Gospel–God’s free grace for train-wrecked sinners–recognized that we needed to more fully embody the Gospel in our worship. We knew we needed to come confessing.

The Beauty of the BCP’s Confession

One of the standard confessions of the Book of Common Prayer (BCP, the liturgical guide-book used by Anglicans and Episcopalians for worship) functions for confession in a similar way to how the Lord’s Prayer functions for praying. From an early age, I was taught that the Lord’s Prayer was a model-prayer, designed to walk us through the various aspects of prayer (e.g. worship, kingdom-oriented entreaty, individual-oriented supplication, etc.). The BCP’s confession has functioned very similarly for me. Its headings help me to understand the ways I can sin (“thought, word, and deed”) and how I can sin (“by what we have done…and left undone”).  It helps me to understand what my sin ultimately boils down to (neither loving God nor my neighbor) and how to feel while confession (“we are truly sorry”). Sometimes, when I feel like I’m stuck in my own personal confession, I will walk through the BCP’s confession in my own mind to prime my confession pump. It almost always does the trick of excavating things I hadn’t thought about. That’s the beauty of the BCP’s confession.

Our Song

So it seemed fitting that one of the first confession songs that Coral Ridge would learn to sing in this new dawn for our church would be an adaptation of this prayer. And that’s precisely what we did. I tried to keep us as close to the text as possible while allowing it to be singable and memorable. I also added a very Anglican-like litany at the end, moving us out of confession into asking for mercy to be the kinds of people we should be under grace. But even then, those prayers are a kind of confession themselves, because we know we’re not those things.  This song is in regular rotation at our church. Take a listen to it, and feel free to grab some of the free resources below. I think the melody is very adaptable to different situations, from choir-led traditional services, to uber-hip ambient-indie services.

Most Merciful God

chord chart | lead sheet

LYRICS

1. Most merciful God
We confess that we have sinned
In our thoughts and words and deeds
We’ve broken Your law
By the things that we have done
And the things we’ve left undone

Have mercy
Have mercy 

2. We have not loved You
With the fullness of our heart
Nor our neighbor as ourselves
We lack the goodness
To feel sorrow as we should
To repent and turn to You

Have mercy
Have mercy

For the sake of Your Son
Have mercy on us
For the sake of Your Son
Have mercy on us 

May we joy in Your will
Have mercy on us
May we walk in Your ways
Have mercy on us

May we love as You love
Have mercy on us
May we weep as You weep
Have mercy on us

May we serve as You serve
Have mercy on us
May we speak as You speak
Have mercy on us

May we go as You go
Have mercy on us
May we care as You care
Have mercy on us

Make us one as You’re one
Have mercy on us
Father, Son, Holy Ghost,
Have mercy on us

Words: Zac Hicks, 2013, based on the Book of Common Prayer
Music: Zac Hicks & Julie Anne Vargas, 2013
©2013 Unbudding Fig Music (ASCAP), Julie Anne Vargas

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