For centuries traditional Christian worship has included a prayer of confession, followed by a declared assurance of God’s pardon. This practice that recognizes our persistent human failing and our witness of God’s forgiving love remains relevant for every place and time. Whenever we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we seek God’s forgiveness and acknowledge our need to forgive others. This may be the most difficult petition that most of us pray. Yet when we confess our sin, we also experience the reality of God’s grace.
Israel’s prayer book, the Book of Psalms, helps us struggle with our guilt and grievances. Within it we find people like ourselves who lift their voices in praise and thanksgiving one moment, and pain and protest the next. We identify with their honest words as we search for God’s presence and help in times of crisis. The spiritual discoveries the writers make enlarge our own understanding of God.
Hear Psalm 103 as a grateful poet’s reflection on a lifelong relationship with a gracious God. Realize that these words are not mere theological speculation but confident testimony. They are written by one like us who in the continuing quest for life’s meaning and mercy discovers the reality of God’s steadfast love. Note what the writer experiences about the characteristics of God’s ways with us. God is patient and persistent. God is slow to anger but abundant in the desire to forgive. God understands our weakness and restores us when we stumble and fall. God knows our frailty and remembers that we are dust (v. 14). Find comfort in thinking of God not as a distant, unapproachable deity but as a compassionate parent who knows us well and whose love for us never ends.
Which of God’s characteristics that the psalmist describes is most difficult for me to embody in my relationships?
God of persistent love, help me remember anew that your love and care for me knows no bounds and that you can help me love that way today. Amen.