In August of 1662 around 2,000 ministers left the national church of England for the sake of conscience (they were called the non-conformists). You’ll have to read about this significant church history event elsewhere since I simply want to point out a few prayers of repentance that two pastors prayed the last Sunday of their parish ministry in the English state church. The pastors were Edmund Calamy (d. 1666) and Thomas Watson (d. 1686). Here are excerpts from their prayers. Notice the depth of their repentance and confession of sin.
“We confess we have forfeited all our mercies; we have heard much of God, Christ, and heaven with our ears, but there is little of God, Christ, and heaven in our hearts. We confess, many of us by hearing sermons, are sermon-proof; we know how to scoff and mock at sermons, but we know not how to live sermons” (Calamy).
“We have sinned presumptuously against the clearest light and dearest love; always have we sinned. …Thou hast shown mercy to us, but the better thou hast been to us, the worse we have been to thee. Thou hast loaded us with thy mercies, and we have wearied thee with our sins. When we look into ourselves, oh, the poison of our natures! …By our spiritual leprosy we infect our holy things. Our prayers need pardon and our tears need the blood of sprinkling to wash them. …We confess we are untuned and unstrung for every holy action; we are never out of tune to sin but always out of tune to pray. We give the world our main affections and our strong desires…there is not that reverence, nor that devotion, nor that activeness of faith that there should be. …Oh, humble us for our unkindness, and for Christ’s sake blot out our transgressions; they are more than we can number, but not more than [thou canst] pardon” (Watson).
When these types of deep, heart-felt prayers of repentance and confession are spoken in private and in the pulpit, the Christian church is strengthened. We shouldn’t balk at the intensity of confession here, we should likewise say and expound upon the words that arose from the beaten-breast of the tax collector: “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Lk. 18:13; cf. Neh. 9:1ff).
The above prayer excerpts are found in this new revised edition of the Sermons of the Great Ejection (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2012).