How to Prepare for Confession

The Sacrament of Confession is the first and most important way to cure spiritual delusion. After confession, the action of thoughts, sins, and demonic visions on the human soul diminishes and disappears.

How to Confess?

Bishop Panteleimon (Shatov), Chairman of the Synodal Department of Church Charity and Social Service.

Bishop Panteleimon (Shatov)

At confession, you need to repent, listing your sins. Sometimes, coming to confession, people begin to tell something like the following: “I came home yesterday, my husband met me, he, as always, was drunk, I reproved him and he began to shout at me, I got angry and hit him in his face. I, of course, did the wrong thing. But what could I do?..” This is not a confession. The confession should be a repentance, and not a story about your life, and, moreover, with an attempt to justify your sins.

Although there are people who, by their simplicity, do not know how to repent in any other way. And, of course, their confessor will accept their confession in this form, but nevertheless it would be more correct to say this: “I am angry, I am very irritable; when my husband misbehaved, I got angry, hit him in the face. I am very sorry about this, I repent. I asked him for forgiveness and I promise God that I will never do this again.” This is how, it seems to me, the correct confession will sound.

Often people write a lot in their notes, they tell too much about something, it is not entirely correct. There is an opposite thing, also wrong, when a person simply lists his sins in separate words: “I sinned with vanity, despondency, irritation ...” “I broke my fast, I had bad thoughts,” the children say “I misbehaved...” What does “vanity” mean? What does irritation mean? What do bad thoughts mean? What do you mean saying “misbehaved”? We should not speak in general terms about the passion that works in you, it works in everyone, but about how this passion manifests itself in you. For example, it would be more correct to say not “I was annoyed with my daughter,” but “I humiliated my daughter, called her with bad words, hit her ...” Or, for example, pride... How does it manifest itself, your pride? You humiliate other people, look down on everyone, you are rude to someone, wanting to humiliate him? That is, confession should not be a detailed story of all the circumstances of a particular case, but should be repentance for specific sins, but, on the other hand, these sins should not be designated by one word.

The Venerable Leo of Optina on Confession

From the letters of the Venerable elder Leo of Optina.

St. Leo of Optina

We will not be afraid if we have to struggle after the confession

We will not be afraid, if we have to struggle after the confession, it is better to deal with bodily impurities than with pride, and although we fall in the battle, we should not leave the battle field: then we have much more need for a doctor.

Fear of God force us to confess sins

You are worried most of all and you reproach yourself that you care more about pleasing the mentors than God, that the thought that you should confess every sin to me holds you back more than the fear of angering the Lord. These thoughts lead you to self-assurance. Don’t you do this because of fear of God, when you repent of your sins before God, having as a witness His servant, who was entrusted the keys to bind and loose. St. John Climacus in the 4th step writes: “By resolving to make one’s confession, the soul is thereby held from sinning as by a bridle; for we do not confess our crimes to henceforth shamelessly repeat the manifested ulcers, as if in the darkness, not to make them set on the bitter, but healed, this opinion is contrary to yours.” Therefore, you clean yourself of passions and sins, you do not lose anything, but you gain piety and peace of conscience, not thinking that by yourself, but by the prayers of others you received this, while many who walked the high path fell with a great fall. Think, do you refrain from sins fearing me? I'm not a reader of the heart. If you hide anything from me, I will not call you to account and denounce you, and you have nothing to fear from me. From this you see that the fear of God compels you to confess your sins, and, consequently, to refrain from them, and not the fear of me. You see yourself prone to arrogance – try to reject self-assurance as much as possible, and rejecting this thought that disturbs you completely, please be peaceful and calm.

The Holy Fathers commanded those new in the faith to generally confess all their sins from their youth

But in order for you to foresee faults and to protect yourself and those who follow your wise admonition, you deign to ask our wickedness with a true sincerity about the previous bad impulses; although they were confessed to confessors, the burden of conscience is not alleviated, but you are burdened and embarrassed, i.e. you are not contented as you should, and it is evident that the confessor, who confessed you, was not very skillful. And therefore the holy spirit-bearing fathers commanded those new in the faith and wishing to adopt the monastic angelic life to confess all their sins in general from youth and, thus, purify their conscience and soul, and lay a new foundation, i.e. having cleansed themselves and relieved from such a burden, easily accept the obedience. - So I, sinful, advise your love to ask and pray to the Most Merciful Lord and God, so that by His providence He would send you such a spiritual father, to whom you could confess all your sins from youth to this age and who could instill in you the importance of them. Although we are now unable to satisfy them with penance, at least we must satisfy with repentance and tears, so that we will propitiate the Merciful Lord to relieve us from the burden and grant us courage and strength to resist the universal enemy, the devil. When the Lord, in response to your faith and diligence, grants you such a spiritual father and you do as written above, then you will see peace within your soul, and joy of the heart, and tenderness, comforting you with invaluable comfort.

Preparation for the Sacrament of Confession

Sermon by Saint Ignatius (Brianchaninov).

Saint Ignatius (Brianchaninov)

Translation by Nun Cornelia (Rees).

Beloved brethren! We have reached the haven of the holy fast. Let us now set aside special time for an especially attentive, detailed review of ourselves. The gates of repentance have now opened wider to us.

Dwellers of the holy monastery! Christ’s closest disciples! True children of the Church, who do ever abide at her spiritual breast! It would be more appropriate to those of our calling not to require a special time set aside for being attentive to ourselves, for cleansing away our sinful stains by confession and repentance; it would be fitting for us if our entire lives would consist of unceasing attention and unceasing repentance—if only our lives would correspond to our name as monks. The example of purity to which we should aspire is perfect. That example is our Lord Jesus Christ. But as He which hath called you is holy, says the Apostle, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy (1 Pet. 1:15–16). In accordance with the infinite perfection of this example of purity, the field of repentance and purification is infinite. Even if one were to pass through this field with all possible zeal and diligence, he could still not attain to perfect purity, even if his life of constant repentance were to go on for a thousand years; even then he would not reach complete purification. The greatest of monks were acutely aware at the time of their death that not only had they not fully repented, but that they had not even begun to repent.[1] But because of our ever growing and multiplying infirmities, on the day our soul departs from this earthly life will be very far from that sanctity with which our holy fathers, those chosen vessels of God and desert dwellers, departed from their bodies. They are now dwellers of heaven, because they diligently abided in repentance during their sojourn through the desert of earthly life.

Venerable Ambrose of Optina on Confession

From the letters of the Venerable elder Ambrose of Optina.

Saint Ambrose of Optina

It is useful to confess everything with self-reproach, however, if you do it with indignation at others, what is the use of full explanations?.


To my confession - "I am sinful in everything," asked: "Did you steal horses?" I answered: "No". “Well, you see, not in everything,” the elder said, smiling. In response to my words that I do not know how to confess at all, the father remarked: "You leave confession like a saint."


If you are carried away by something through weakness, do not be faint-hearted and embarrassed, but try to correct this by self-reproach and confession first to God, the reader of the human heart, and to your spiritual father in due time. Let the events happening teach you to eschew, be careful and guard yourself, through the fear of God. Surrender yourself to the will of God and wait with patience for the decision of your fate.


Question: "What does it mean to sincerely confess?" Answer: "It means not to hide anything, to speak directly, not to smooth over."

The Power of the Sacrament of Confession

Bishop Alexander (Mileant). The Sacrament of Confession. Remedy for a sick soul.

Content: Reasons for inner discord. Looking into oneself. Power of the Sacrament of Confession. Aid to confession. Prayers of the Sacrament of Confession. Notes and conclusion.

Reasons for inner discord

The greatest paradox of our life is that while we all instinctively strive for happiness, most of the time we are unhappy and dissatisfied even when no danger threatens us. Philosophy is helpless in satisfactorily clarifying the reason for this paradox. The Christian faith, however, explains that the reason for our dissatisfaction and dark feelings lies within ourselves. It results from our sinfulness — not only from our personal sins but also from our very nature that is marred by the primordial sin. Sinful corruption is the main source of our grief and suffering.

Sin is a spiritual sickness that grows and expands with time like cancerous cells. Left unchecked, sin gains in strength and enslaves its victim, and in doing so, it taints his mind, weakens his will towards good, permeates him with uneasiness and bitterness, arouses in him passionate feelings and evil thoughts and compels him to sin again and again.

We all are, to a greater or lesser degree, damaged by sin, although we often fail to recognize the full extent of our inner sickness. The main reason that the Lord Jesus Christ came to our world was to eradicate in us the roots of sin and return to us spiritual health and with it eternal bliss. However, because sin is so intimately interwoven with our mind and will, with our subconscious, it cannot be removed instantly or by external means. It is essential that we become actively involved with its extermination, but even our own efforts are not enough to accomplish total eradication of sin. Only the grace of Christ can give us complete spiritual recovery.

On repentance and confession

Monk Moses of the Holy Mountain. "Many Confess, But Few Repent".

What is repentance and confession?

Confession is a God-given commandment, and it is one of the Sacraments of our Church. Confession is not a formal, habitual (”to be on the safe side”, or, ”in view of upcoming feast-days”), forced and unprepared act, springing from an isolated duty or obligation and for psychological relief only. Confession should always be combined with repentance. A Holy Mountain Elder used to say: ”Many confess, but few repent!” (Elder Aemilianos of Simonopetra Monastery, Mt. Athos)

Repentance is a freely-willed, internally cultivated process of contrition and sorrow for having distanced ourselves from God through sin. True repentance has nothing to do with intolerable pain, excessive sorrow and relentless guilty feelings. That would not be sincere repentance, but a secret egotism, a feeling of our ”ego” being trampled on; an anger that is directed at our self, which then wreaks revenge because it is exposing itself and is put to shame—a thing that it cannot tolerate.

Repentance means a change in our thoughts, our mentality; it is an about-face; it is a grafting of morality and an abhorrence of sin.

Repentance also means a love of virtue, benevolence, and a desire, a willingness and a strong disposition to be re-joined to Christ through the Grace of the almighty Holy Spirit.

Repentance begins in the depths of the heart, but it culminates necessarily in the sacrament of divine and sacred Confession.

During confession, one confesses sincerely and humbly before the confessor, as though in the presence of Christ. No scientist, psychologist, psychoanalyst, psychiatrist, sociologist, philosopher or theologian can replace the confessor.

A Lament for Sin

Saint Basil the Great. "A Lament for Sin".

Weep over your sin: it is a spiritual ailment; it is death to your immortal soul; it deserves ceaseless, unending weeping and crying; let all tears flow for it, and sighing come forth without ceasing from the depths of your heart.

In profound humility I weep for all my sins, voluntary and involuntary, conscious and unconscious, covert and overt, great and little, committed by word and deed, in thought and intention, day and night, at every hour and minute of my life.

I weep over my pride and my ambition, my self love and my boastfulness; I weep over my fits of anger, irritation, excessive shouting, swearing, quarreling and cursing;

I weep for having criticized, censured, gossiped, slandered, and defamed, for my wrath, enmity, hatred, envy, jealousy, vengeance and rancor;

I weep over my indulgences in lust, impure thoughts and evil inclinations; covetousness, gluttony, drunkenness, and sloth;

I weep for having talked idly, used foul language, blasphemed, derided, joked, ridiculed, mocked, enjoyed empty gaiety, singing, dancing and every pleasure to excess;

How to Prepare for Confession

How to Prepare for Confession

Advice given by Saint Theophan the recluse from his well known book Path to Salvation.
To make a good confession it is necessary to prepare yourself carefully. Ask God to give you Grace to make a thorough examination of your conscience, the courage to make a sincere and complete confession, and the strength to amend your way of life in the days to come.
Think timidly and fearfully of our weak human condition.
Begin your examination from the time of your last confession; try to recall whether you omitted anything through carelessness or lapse of memory, or from fear of embarrassment. Examine yourself with the assistance of the form of self-examination according to the Ten Commandments of God which follows.
It is most necessary that you be truly sorry for the sins which you have committed, and that you firmly purpose amendment of your manner of living. Embrace the story of the Prodigal Son (Lk 15:11-32).
When I disobeyed in ignorance Thy fatherly glory, I wasted in iniquities the riches that Thou gavest me. Wherefore, I cry to Thee with the voice of the prodigal son, saying, I have sinned before Thee, O compassionate Father, receive me repentant, and make me as one of Thy hired servants.

How Everyone Should Prepare Before Confession

St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite. "Exomologetarion: A Manual of Confession".

What is repentance?

My brother sinner, this is the preparation you must undergo before you repent and go to confession. Know firstly that repentance, according to St. John of Damaskos, is a returning from the devil to God, which comes about through pain and ascesis.[25] So you also, my beloved, if you wish to repent properly, must depart from the devil and from diabolical works and return to God and to the life proper to God. You must forsake sin, which is against nature, and return to virtue, which is according to nature. You must hate wickedness so much, that you say along with David: “Unrighteousness have I hated and abhorred” (Ps. 118:163), and instead, you must love the good and the commandments of the Lord so much, that you also say along with David: “But Thy law have I loved” (ibid.), and again: “Therefore have I loved Thy commandments more than gold and topaz” (Ps. 118:127). In brief, the Holy Spirit informs you through the wise Sirach what in fact true repentance is, saying: “Turn to the Lord and forsake your sins... Return to the Most High, and turn away from iniquity, and hate abominations intensely” (Sir. 17:25-26).[26]
The aspects of repentance

Know secondly that the aspects of repentance are three: contrition, confession, and satisfaction.[27]

Which Thoughts Should Be Confessed

Saints Barsanuphius the Great and John the Prophet. "Letters".


Question from the same brother to the same Old Man: “Should one ask the elders about all the thoughts that arise in the heart? Moreover, when one prays or chants the Psalms, should one do this with one’s voice? In addition, about memories of what one has done, heard, or spoken. Finally, should one enter into discussions with the fathers?”

Response by John.

Brother, it is not necessary to ask about all of the thoughts that may arise; for [many of] these are fleeting. One should ask about those which abide and tempt us. For a person who is insulted many times will take no notice of these insults and become carefree in regard to them; however, if someone should attack or assault that person, then the latter will accuse the culprit before the magistrate. That is how we, too, should act.

As for prayer and chanting the Psalms, it should be done not only with the intellect but also with one’s lips. For the prophet David says: “Lord, you shall open my lips, and my mouth shall declare your praise.” (Ps 50.17) Furthermore, the Apostle reveals that the lips are required, when he speaks of “the fruit of the lips,” (Heb 13.15) and so on.

As for those things which you have seen or heard or practiced or thought, nothing else can put an end to these except humble prayer, namely, a prayer that has no will of its own at all and is accompanied by tears. Those fathers who achieved this did not do so without toil, tears, and the excision of the will. Now, entering into discussions [with the fathers] means counting yourself as being something and regarding yourself as their equal. Asking questions and trusting their answers, however, is humility and progress in the Lord. Pray for me, brother.