Confession of sin: After singing and symbolically marching into the presence of God in the form of a procession (from the back to the front by the ministers and other attendants), the first act is confession of sin. Anytime someone enters the presence of God in Scripture, confession is always the first step. This is always first in coming to know God. The confession of sin is said by all. It refers to sins of omission and commission, and sins of the heart as well as sins of the flesh. It is a well-rounded statement to include all of our sins.
Declaration of Grace: After dealing with sin, the grace of God is declared to us. This is a declaration said by the minister. He does not have the power actually to forgive sins. He can only declare forgiveness on the basis of the Word of God for those who are “truly penitent.” He does, however, comfort those who have confessed their sin with the reality of forgiveness through Christ.
Response of Faith: The congregation responds with the Lord’s Prayer. We should not forget that prayer is a statement of faith. It is therefore an appropriate way to respond to the free offer of the Gospel.
After a brief transition by way of versicles – short exchanges between the minister and congregation – the congregation enters the second Gospel cycle.
Confession: Psalms are sung and said (responsively) together. They are a way of stating man’s fundamental deficiencies and needs. They are actually confessions before the Lord about man and God.
Grace: After the second cycle of confession before God, grace is declared through the reading and response of Scripture. Old and New Testament portions are read as first and second lessons. After each reading, the congregation stands and announces the grace of God by singing Scripture. This is all done out of great reverence for God and his Word.
Response: When the Holy Scriptures have been read, the church gives a special response of faith in the form of the Apostle’s Creed (or the Nicene Creed). The word “creed” simply means, “I believe.” All churches have certain beliefs even though they might deny that they have a creed. Their “creeds” will be their hymns, sermons, Sunday school material, and so forth. Creeds are unavoidable. The historic church has always built its creeds around the Holy Trinity. In both of the standard creeds, the reader will notice this threefold division around Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is a creedal expression of faith. Notice that the first response of faith was in the form of prayer. Now it is by means of a creed. The congregation has responded prayerfully and doctrinally. Both are important aspects of true faith in Christ.
Many churches that use Morning Prayer have the sermon and the offering immediately after the creed; others will place these responses at the end of the service. The sermon and the offering are specific responses of faith. The sermon is to be centered around the Word of God, either the lessons for the day or some other portion of Scripture.
The last cycle is exclusively in the form of prayer. The tension mounts in the service, as the congregation has been drawn closer and closer to God. But as the people come to the Lord and in a sense “sit on his lap,” the service ends with petitions from children to their (heavenly) Father.
Confession: The final cycle begins with another versicle transition. This versicle is an exchange in the form of a confession and request: “O God, make clean our hearts within us.”
Grace: Next, two collects (prayers of the group as a whole) and other prayers are offered. One is specifically called, “A Collect for Grace.” It is a petition for protection and safety as well as a prayer for righteousness. After the collects, prayers for the nation and the Church are said. They both ask for grace to be manifested according to the particular needs of each institution.
Response: Finally, the congregation prays a prayer of “General Thanksgiving.” It was originally written during the time of Puritan England to express man’s response of thankfulness for God’s great mercy. It is said by all as a final expression of faith. The service concludes on this third type of response: thanksgiving. The participants have therefore responded with prayer, creed, and thankfulness. Faith is prayerful, doctrinal, and grateful.
The Morning Prayer service then concludes with a simple request and benediction: “The Grace.” Three times the congregation has been taken through the Gospel before the throne of God. The message of Holy Scripture has been riveted by word and action.