Following up from prayers of penitence, one of the things that we were left with was the recommitting or re-offering of ourselves to God through acts of penitence, seeking reconciliation, wishing to repair our relationship with God. This is almost precisely what prayer of oblation are. Prayers of oblation primarily focus on self-offering, where we place our entire selves (body, mind, heart, and spirit) before God, seeking to work His will, not ours. In the Lord’s Prayer, the line “thy will be done” says it all.
Like penitence, some people may have the idea that this is a one-time deal. Particularly in Evangelical circles, “giving yourself up to God” tends to be synonymous with “repentance” and “conversion” and “being born again.” For sure, these things all need to take place as/when/before you become a Christian, but none of them end there – the Christian life is a continual process of growing into those things. We continue to sin, we continue to favor our own ways, we continue to serve ourselves… all of these need to be converted over to loving God & neighbor, favoring God’s ways, and serving God.
How does this compare to human relationships? The analogy is very strong: when a couple gets married, they pledge themselves to one another. Wedding vows are statements of oblation – they’re literally giving themselves to one another. The beginning of the Christian life is exactly the same: we are given over to God in a new way that we hadn’t been before. But over the course of marriage that initial promise has to be enacted continually. I don’t mean that married couples have to reaffirm their wedding vows in a formal ceremony every now and then, although some do after a rough period, or at landmark anniversaries. Many clergy I’ve learned from in & around seminary have recommended couples memorize their wedding vows as a helpful discipline, strengthening their mental commitment to their spouse. This can then be expressed in acts of love that demonstrate that commitment, be it giving gifts, going out on dates, giving verbal affirmation of love, or whatever.
There are lots of ways that we can (and should) offer oblation to God. Like in the end of the prayer of General Thanksgiving, this should be done “not only with our lips, but in our lives.” Both word and deed together form a bastion of authenticity. This is why “doing penance” after confessing our sins is a very good thing: it gives that extra edge of honesty to our quest for perfect union with the God whom we love.