There was a prayer that shaped my identity from babyhood.  It is not unique: it has been used by many believers since the 1500s.  But we were taught deep meanings, and we didn’t recite it mindlessly.  We lived it.  The prayer is on the left.  The meaning, as my parents explained it, is on the right.

O most merciful god, I, a poor miserable sinner, confess unto thee all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended Thee.

I must confess every sin that I ever committed every day.

I justly deserve thy temporal and eternal punishment.

This means that I deserve any bad thing that happens to me: cancer, hunger, a car accident, whatever.

But I am heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them.

The most important thing is to be continually sorry for everything.  I constantly apologize.

I pray Thee of Thy boundless mercy and for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be gracious and merciful to me, a poor, sinful being.

My essential identity was a poor, sinful being.  No other identity – no job, no good deed, nothing I would ever do – mattered.

My brother and sister and I confessed our sins aloud to my mother every night.  No personal modesty could exist.  The last thing on my mind was the number of sins I’d committed and how worthless I was because I couldn’t stop doing the same thing day after day.  This was god.  This was religion.