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Christian Counselor Recommends Writing a Personal Liturgy as Aid to Prayer

Last Updated: April 16, 2015

I recently read an article by Christian counselor David Powlison about writing a personal liturgy to recite when we are entrenched in deep feelings of shame, guilt, and regret. He encourages people to tailor a liturgy for themselves based on their personal struggles with sin and then recite it in a time of meditation and prayer.

Many people in modern churches may not know about (or might have an aversion to) liturgy. The word “liturgy” refers to a prescribed or customary repertoire of phrases, ideas, and rites used in public worship. Some churches would call themselves liturgical. Others would describe themselves as non-liturgical, meaning they do no have customary prayers, confessions, readings, or hymns that guide the planning of their worship services.

I do not intend to debate the pros and cons of worship style here. Generally speaking, members of liturgical churches appreciate the fact that their times of public worship are not driven by personality, whim, or favoritism, but rather by a time-tested tradition that emphasizes deep and timely theological truths which can often be overlooked amidst the chaotic emotions of life.

David Powlison cites the following benefits for writing a personal liturgy:

  1. The writing process helps us think through exactly what we need to bring to God, and what we need from God. When we write out our liturgy, we can more accurately express the gravity of our sin and the depth of God’s mercy based on the Word of God.
  2. It gives us serious, honest words to express our sorrow, regret, guilt and pain. Powlison recommends that we actually pray the liturgy out loud because it helps us to remember that we are talking with someone who is listening and not just tossing thoughts about in our head.
  3. It leads us by the hand to God’s mercy in moments when we don’t have the words to say. Even when our thoughts are chaotic, these pre-established, personal words can serve as a guide.

He suggests adapting and personalizing words from the General Confession of Sin in The Book of Common Prayer.

Read Powlison’s guide: “A personal liturgy of confession.”

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