A Book of Common Prayer "Erred And Strayed Like Lost Sheep"

Joan Didion

"Erred And Strayed Like Lost Sheep"

Context: The Order for Daily Morning Prayer is the first service in the Book of Common Prayer and is a direct descendent of the system of services used during the Middle Ages and known as the Canonical Hours. This system of daily worship was regarded not only as a means of personal edification but as a part of the Church's "bounden duty and service" in a continual offering to God of a corporate act of praise and thanksgiving. Morning Prayer begins with a series of opening sentences which set the theme and tone of the service to come. The Exhortation which follows reminds the worshiper that no converse with God can be fitting or profitable until his sins are laid bare and he has sought reconciliation with God's Love. The minister beseeches the people to accompany him "with a pure heart, and humble voice, unto the throne of heavenly grace," and there to confess their sins unto Almighty God. There follows a General Confession of all the faithful in which they compare themselves to wandering and rebellious sheep the essence of whose sin is self-assertion: the following after their own wills rather than of God's holy ways. The inevitable result of this straying is the loss of the spiritual health which only their merciful and loving shepherd can restore to them.

Almighty and most merciful Father; We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us. But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare thou those, O God, who confess their faults. Restore thou those who are penitent; According to thy promises declared unto mankind In Christ Jesus our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake; That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of thy holy Name. Amen.