There was no rite for individual confession. In fact, the Small Catechism that I was taught included no rite either. It was as if the whole thing had been erased from Lutheran memory. And it had. So, as Pastor Mark Surburg put it, "from 1856 to 1982 there wasn’t a rite for it in the hymnals published by the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (one did appear for the first time in the Worship Supplement of 1969). From 1943 to 1986 the description in the Small Catechism of how confession is done wasn’t included in the English translation used by the LCMS. From 1943 to 1991 the description in the Small Catechism of how confession is done wasn’t included in the Explanation of Luther’s Small Catechism used for catechesis in the LCMS. If you don’t read and speak German, and you received catechesis and Confirmation between 1943 and 1991 it is almost certain that you never learned about private confession, much less how it is done." There is the shocking statement. Even though the Confessions not only mention but commend individual or private confession and absolution, most Lutherans had no clue that there was such a thing. Either because they were not taught faithfully or the rites were suppressed, Lutherans developed a clear case of amnesia regarding private or individual confession.
The first official sign of change came in the Worship Supplement 1969 but the big splash came when Lutheran Worship 1982 finally included a rite. Sadly, there was not much catechesis about the restoration of that rite and so it was a big splash that was later forgotten and the status quo of silence continued even to the present day. When a young pastor shows up right out of seminary, having been taught about the value of private confession from pastoral practice, liturgics, and Confessions classes, to address the topic of private confession, people immediately are suspect of him. Does he lean toward Rome? It is not their fault, of course, because they were not properly taught and their church had suffered amnesia with regard to this blessed and wonderful sacramental rite and its gift to the penitent. But it does explain why so many are so confused about what Lutherans believe, confess, and teach with regard to private or individual confession and absolution.
So now we have the rite restored to both hymnal (LSB) and catechism and there are more pastors now willing to teach this wonderul gift with which Christ has blessed His Church, but are we willing to receive it? It will be a long time before we find ourselves in accord with the Apology or with practice Bach knew in which additional times and additional pastors had to be assigned for the many desiring confession or even the time of Loehe when he found the burden so great that it was permissible for the pastor to sit on a chair while handling the great number of confessing people.
It is well known that we have so explained and extolled the benefit of absolution and the power of the keys that many troubled consciences have received consolation from our teaching. They have heard that it is a command of God—indeed, the very voice of the gospel—so that we may believe the absolution and regard as certain that the forgiveness of sins is given to us freely on account of Christ and that we should maintain that we are truly reconciled to God by this faith. (Ap. XI.2).