The Meaning of Repentance
In Matthew 3:2, John the Baptist cries out to the people "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand" (ESV). In the Greek, the phrase "Be Ye Repenting" is rendered by the word "metanoeite". Metanoia means "change in one’s way of life resulting from penitence or spiritual conversion" (Oxford English Dictionary).
So to repent is more than about asking God's pardon or forgiveness, it involves a decision to live life differently, to live as God would want us to live, rather than how we might want to lead our lives. As such this term is often associated with conversion and baptism into the Christian faith.
The word "repent" is also associated with a Roman military phrase meaning "to turn away". Repenting is about turning away from everything we know to be wrong and turning to God in humility and dependency. For the Christian, repentance will be an ongoing journey of "turning", a daily decision to live life in obedience to Christ.
Here is a contemporary prayer you can use now which asks God for His forgiveness, cleansing and empowering:-
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Catholic prayer of repentance
I beseech Thee, O Most Blessed Trinity,
to shed the fire of Thy merciful love upon this most frigid heart,
to let shine upon this most darkened mind,
the light of the Son,
in whom alone is every grace and truth.
Have pity on me, most Merciful God,
and regard not my sins and offenses,
but in Thy mercy forgive me yet again,
and grant me the graces to serve Thee now in fidelity and truth.
(Extract from " A Prayer of Repentance", the Franciscan Prayerbook)
Almighty God, our heavenly Father:
We have sinned against you,
through our own fault,
in thought, and word, and deed,
and in what we have left undone.
For the sake of your Son our Lord Jesus Christ,
forgive us all our offenses;
and grant that we may serve you
in newness of life,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.
(source: from "An Order for Compline", Book of Common Prayer, 1979 version, Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA.)
(The word "iniquity" means a grossly immoral, injustice or wicked act. "Transgressions" refers to the breaking of a command or obligation).
1 Have mercy on me, God, according to your loving kindness. According to the multitude of your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity. Cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions. My sin is constantly before me.
4 Against you, and you only, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight; that you may be proved right when you speak, and justified when you judge.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity. In sin my mother conceived me.
6 Behold, you desire truth in the inward parts. You teach me wisdom in the inmost place.
7 Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean. Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness, That the bones which you have broken may rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all of my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me.
11 Do not throw me from your presence, and do not take your holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation. Uphold me with a willing spirit.
(Psalm 51:1-12, New Heart English Bible)
An inspirational short film featuring a reading of the "Our Father":-
To pray is nothing more involved than to lie in the sunshine of His grace, to expose our distress of body and soul to those healing rays which can in a wonderful way counteract and render ineffective the bacteria of sin.
Ole Kristian O. Hallesby (1879-1961) Norwegian Christian teacher and writer.
A Modern Prayer of Repentance
I lay bear before you the darkest areas of my life.
I give you the things which I have done wrong,
And the areas where I have failed to act as I should.
I never want to live like this again.
Right now I chose to turn away from everything I know to be wrong about my life.
As I kneel before you in adoration
I ask for your forgiveness,
And I give you all my shame, guilt and wrongdoing.
Thank you that you accept me and embrace me.
Please fill me with Your Holy Spirit now.
Focus my heart on You,
And empower me in everything that I do.
I ask all this in the precious name of Jesus,
My Saviour and Protector.
(a modern prayer for repentance from www.lords-prayer-words.com)