As I have mentioned in a previous post, daily I pray through a prewritten prayer service. For many years, it was the Daily Office from the Book of Common Prayer. This book became a dear friend of mine. This prayer service opens with time of confession followed by a short prayer of confession. I have found much fruit from this time of confession and would like to share some lessons I have learned from it.
As I first prayed through this prayer service, the time of confession felt a bit intimidating. Thoughts ran through my head like, “How much do I confess?” “I haven’t confessed my sins in a while, this could take a long time!” “I don’t know if I will like what I learn about myself if I spend daily time confessing my sin!” “Where do I begin?” After a few weeks of daily confession, I developed a strange love for it. It became a time of refreshment.
The best analogy I have for it is food related. Confession has become for me like a nice fresh salad after many days of fast food. I know it sounds strange at first, but I would like to share with you a few reflections I have gained from a regular practice of confession. Hopefully at the end of this you will understand why I feel as I do. And if you are struggling with confession in prayer, I hope that these principles will help you as you spend time before God in confession.
Notice the Biblical Example for Confession
As you read through the scriptures, you will notice that prayers of confession are regular. Confession is part of the Lord’s Prayer in both Matthew and Luke Gospel. There are prayers of confession scattered throughout the Psalms. Most of Ezra 9 is the confession of Ezra regarding the exile’s sin. There is also the popular verse in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I believe this verse makes a powerful point about confessing of our sin before God. There is a strong connection between confession and cleansing.
First, at the most basic level, we must confess that we are sinners in need of the saving work of Christ to receive salvation. This salvation is the cleansing of our sins. Therefore in a very real sense, confession of sin is at the core of our salvation. Now as you dive deeper into that salvation, confession also plays an important cleansing role. It is a cleansing of conscience.
This can be seen well in Psalm 130:3-4. The psalmist writes, “Lord, if you kept an account of iniquities, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that you may be revered.” The author acknowledges the vastness of His sin before God. Yet, he rests assured in the character of God. His confession found it’s answer in a forgiving God.
When we spend time confessing our sins to God, we are acknowledging our failures before God. We are not pretending they do not exist. We are laying ourselves bare before God and trusting in his forgiveness. This is not from the attitude of, “well God I am sinner like everyone else, so here is my list today.” That leads to apathy towards sin and an improper understanding of the devastating effects of sin.
When we confess our sins from a heart that takes sin seriously, something happens. We understand the pain that our sins (even the smallest ones) cause. Then, we become more familiar with the grace that Jesus has offered us through the cross. Standing before God with your sin exposed is a vulnerable place to be. Yet, remembering God’s grace toward you in that vulnerable place is such a boost in faith!
I challenge you to confess your sins before God. You will be amazed at His great mercy!
Now I would like to turn to some practical steps for times of confession:
Confess through a Biblical Text
When I first began a regular practice of confession, I would simply sit in prayer and think hard about how I had sinned against God. When I thought of something, I would confess that to Him. I found this to be difficult. I knew I had sin to confess, but after two days of this practice, I had confessed all that I knew to confess. Therefore, I began to confess through passages of scripture.
Lately, I have been spending times of confession in the Ten Commandments, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, and Matthew 5:3-10. These passages give me a standard to measure my life. If I see that I have not lived up to this standard, I confess my sins before God. Do not let this be a depressing practice. Take it seriously, but remember you are not saved by your good works. You are saved by the grace of God through Jesus Christ. You are simply taking inventory of your walk with Christ. Then you are confessing your failings and praying for assistance in sanctification.
Confess the same passages regularly
You are probably not growing in your life of holiness if you are not measuring your life against God’s commands regularly. Therefore, I recommend a regular practice of confession using the same few passages. This is helpful in a few ways.
First, you are keeping God’s commands before you on a regular basis. It never hurts to remind yourself of God’s commands regularly.
Second, you will be able to see areas where you struggle consistently. If you confess through the same passages regularly, you will see patterns of sin in your life. This will give you areas to ask for God’s assistance.
Lastly, you will be able to see areas of growth. Some of the most encouraging times I have in prayer are during confession. During these times, I see God answer my prayers for assistance. I see a character trait that I have prayed for in which God has caused growth. It is such a blessing to see places in which God is at work in your life. I love praising God for how He has been at work in my personal relationship with Him!
Take Your Sin Seriously, but Take God’s Grace Even More Seriously
Brokenness is a proper response during times of confession. If you are not broken while confessing sin, something is not right. Sin has broken the world. It is the reason for war, death, sickness, divorce, abuse, and many other terrible things. Every time we sin, we break God’s world a little bit more. Sin needs to be taken seriously.
Yet, God’s grace is more powerful than our sin. God has the ability to take the most sinful of people in the most sinful of situations and make something beautiful. The practice of confession would crush someone that does not follow Jesus. They do not have the hope of forgiveness in Christ. But for Christians, this practice should catapult us into the arms of our savior. This practice let’s us see how gracious God truly is to us. It helps us take our salvation all that more seriously. It reminds us that God is bigger than the biggest of sin.
I have also found that the practice of confession makes me desire eternal glory with Christ in new creation all the more. There will be a day when sin is no more. There will be no more death, sickness, sadness, crying, or failure. We will be with God perfectly. A regular realization of our sin helps us desire that day without sin so much more. Lord Jesus come!
Confession is probably the last practice that you wanted to read about in this blog post. No one truly enjoys coming face to face with their sin. It is tough. Don’t let this post make you think differently. Yet, it is worth it. Further union with Christ is the goal of the Christian life. Sin gets in the way of that very thing. Therefore, confession ought to be a regular practice in the Christian life. I pray that you find as much fruit as I have in these simple principles of confession. May God bless your continued journey with Him.