Prayers of Contrition
One of the well-established kinds of prayer is offering words of sorrow for our wrongdoing. In prayers of contrition, we acknowledge that we are imperfect, that we make mistakes, that sometimes we choose wrong behavior that affects us and our relationship to God and others. As a family or household it can be very important to take time out to say we are sorry, to ask forgiveness of one another and of God. It is also important for us to let those we live with know that we forgive them for the hurts we have endured. God's love is greater than we can ever dare to imagine. God forgives us before we even ask. However, we need to acknowledge that we are sorry, that we intend to do better, and that we need God in our life to help us choose the right behavior.
When the family or household gathers for a meal, read Matthew 5:23-24 where Jesus tells us that if we have anything against our brother or sister we are to make peace with him or her before we bring our gift to the altar. Invite them to share a sign of peace with each other before the meal.
Gather some pieces of paper, about 5 x 7, some pencils, pens, crayons or markers, a metal or glass bowl, a hot-pad, a candle, and matches. When the family or household assembles, give an introduction using similar words to the introduction above. Explain that as a unit you are going to pause to reflect on relationships with each other and with God. Light the candle. Invite each member to take a piece of paper and write or draw symbols of behaviors they are sorry about – things they have done that have separated them from others and from God. When everyone is ready, take turns burning the pieces of paper in the bowl. As each family member burns the paper he or she could say something like, "I am sorry for my wrongdoing." The rest of the family responds with something like, "We love you and forgive you." When all are finished, take turns blessing each other with the ashes.
When household members are gathered for a meal, event, or car-ride, begin a discussion about the suffering in our world that is caused by people choosing wrong behavior. Consider your own experiences of suffering, what you see and know in your local community, what you see and know about our state, our nation, the world. Offer prayers of contrition for humanity's inhumanity.