Too often I am guilty of a vague, nebulous, imprecise confessions of sin. While it is certainly right to acknowledge our general sin before the Lord ("Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner"), it is also good to be specific, that is, to face our sin head on and bring it to the Lord in repentance. The Westminster Confession of Faith says, "Men ought not to content themselves with a general repentance, but it is every man's duty to endeavor to repent of his particular sins, particularly" (WCF XV. 5). This pattern of "particular" confession is repeated throughout the Scriptures. See Nehemiah 9, Psalm 51, and Daniel 9 for just a few excellent examples. Below is a guide to help us better pray for our particular sins, particularly. And, of course, as our particular sins are brought before God we can be most confident of his particular grace for you and I.
Almighty, eternal, merciful God and Father, we poor sinners confess that we have sinned in many ways against You and Your commandments:
We confess that we have not believed in You, our one God and Father, but have put our faith and trust more in creatures than in You, our God and Creator;
We confess that we have erected idols in our hearts, and bowed down and served them;
We confess that we have misused Your Name, that we have sworn falsely or lightly by it, and have not professed it or kept it holy as we ought;
We confess that we have not kept the Sabbath holy, nor have we rejoiced in the work of six days but have grumbled against Your day and been negligent in our work;
We confess that we have not honored our parents, and have been disobedient to them and to all those to whom we owe honor and obedience.
We confess that we have not respected life, but have murdered in our hearts, venting our anger against our neighbors whom we are to love;
We confess that we have been unchaste; we acknowledge all our sins of the flesh and all the excess and extravagance of our whole lives in eating, drinking, clothing, and other things, and our intemperance in our thinking, seeing, hearing, and speaking;
We confess that we have stolen. We acknowledge our greed; We admit our love of the world and the things of the world; we have dishonestly gained and kept what we have, and greedily held what belongs to others;
We confess that we have borne false witness, that we have been untrue and unfaithful toward our neighbor, that we have shaded, twisted, and denied the truth;
We confess that we have coveted the possessions and spouses of others; we acknowledge in summary that our whole life is nothing else than sin and transgression of your holy commandments and an inclination toward all evil.
Therefore we beg you, O heavenly Father, that you would graciously forgive us these and all our sins. Keep and preserve us henceforth that we may walk only in Your ways and live according to Your will; through Jesus Christ, your dear Son, our Saviour. Amen.
(from Terry Johnson's Leading in Public Worship)