Act of Contrition Prayer: Meaning and Examples

An Act of Contrition is a type of Christian prayer that demonstrates repentance for sins. It may be used in a liturgical service or privately, primarily in connection with an inspection of conscience.

act of contrition prayer
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The Act of Contrition in Catholicism

The Act of Contrition is part of the Sacrament of Penance and is prayed by the penitent following the priest assigning penance and before giving the penitent absolution. It is also generally said before one goes to bed at night.

It is commonly thought that individuals might have recourse to an Act of Contrition when they are in extremis, which means “In the last extreme, a person at the point of death when all positive ecclesiastical laws are subordinated to the primary responsibility of preparing the one dying for entrance into eternity.” The prayer declares in words a deeply personal “act” that involves a person’s heart and will.

As written in the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1430-31,

“Jesus’ call to conversion and penance, like that of the prophets before Him, does not aim first at outward works, ‘sackcloth and ashes, ‘ fasting and mortification, but at the CONVERSION OF THE HEART, INTERIOR CONVERSION. Without this, such penances remain sterile and false; however, interior conversion urges expression in visible signs, gestures, and works of penance.

Interior repentance is a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our heart, an end of sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed. At the same time, it entails the desire and resolution to change one’s life, with hope in God’s mercy and trust in the help of His grace.”

Traditional Act of Contrition Prayer

Oh my God,
I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins,
because I dread the loss of heaven, and the pains of hell;
but most of all because they offend Thee, my God,
Who are all good and deserving of all my love.
I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace,
to confess my sins, to do penance,
and to amend my life.

Modern Act of Contrition Prayer

Lord have mercy on me
Do not look upon my sins
But take away all my guilt
Create in me a clean heart
And renew within me an upright spirit

Act of Contrition for Anglican Communion

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 them, O God, which confess their faults.
Restore thou them that 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.

Lutheran Version

O Almighty God, merciful Father,
I a poor, miserable sinner, confess to You all my sins and iniquities,
with which I have ever offended You and justly deserved Your punishment now and forever.
But I am heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them,
and I pray You of Your boundless mercy,
and for the sake of the holy, innocent,
bitter sufferings and death of Your beloved son, Jesus Christ,
to be gracious and merciful to me, a poor sinful being.

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