This is the second post in my series about the ACTS of prayer. Only a week late! You can find the first part here.
Confession has been the part of my prayer life that has most dramatically affected my personal walk with God. Adoration, Thanksgiving, Supplication–these are all incredibly important. I really believe that we need all of them to balance out the way we relate to our Father in heaven, and that without adoration my confession would not be as meaningful; without thanksgiving my supplication would just be a list of demands. But confession is precious to me. It has changed my life and my walk with the Lord.
If you were to read my journaled prayers, which you won’t, you would quickly discover that the ugliest parts of me are revealed in my times of confession. When I first started journaling my prayer in earnest, I decided that I wasn’t going to hold back in the presence of God. Here’s the thing– He already knows. He sees the parts of me I have no idea are even there. He sees the deeply hidden root of the tiny little sin I might be confessing. And if I am not willing to lay myself bare before the One who already sees me, then my prayer life is never going to go beyond the surface of “please heal so-and-so’s uncle’s friend’s dog’s bee sting.”
So. Let’s start with the reasons we need to confess.
- We confess our sins because we desire forgiveness.We know when we have sinned, and the ugly feeling in our hearts that sin causes. We know our sin affects our lives, our relationships, the way we feel about ourselves. We want to get rid of that feeling of guilt and shame that comes when we engage in sin. We trust this promise– that If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. We want that forgiveness and cleansing. And so we confess.
- We confess our sins because we want to deepen and improve our walk with God. Think about sin as a wall that we build up between God and ourselves. Sometimes we add a little brick at a time. Sometime we erect a huge wall in one day, like some kind of evil Amish barn-raising. Either way– God’s not moving. He still loves us, watches over us, and stays near to us. His Word says He will never leave us or forsake us. But with that wall there, we can’t see Him as well. Maybe at all. Or maybe we see Him like we’re looking through the wrong end of a telescope– He seems far away. Or maybe we see Him as though we’re looking in a fun house mirror, and our perspective is warped and weird. Sin can do these things to us. And so we confess to break down the walls between us, whether they’re just a few bricks or a fortress.
- We confess because we desire to change. If you can’t admit there’s a problem, you’re never going to be able to reach a solution. Confession is stating to God that we’re aware there’s a problem, and that we want to change. It’s giving in to His gentle, inexorable pull of our hearts toward His. Sometimes it’s a quiet surrender and sometimes it’s a bloody battle, but in the end the result is the same– a recognition that His way is the best way.
I’m sure there’s other reasons to confess, but let’s move onto some reasons why we shouldn’t confess.
- We shouldn’t confess because we feel shamed by something we have already been forgiven for. That verse I quoted up there? That’s a promise. We confess; He forgives. Another verse I love– There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. If you are a believer in Christ, then He has already taken every bit of your shame and condemnation. You bear none of it. If you sin, and you confess, the Bible says you’re forgiven and that’s that. The question is, then, what do we do with those feelings? Well, we confess them. Ha! Seriously, though. If you’re struggling with feelings of shame for sin that you have already dealt with, then take it to the throne of grace and lay it bare before your God. Tell Him you are struggling. Confess your feelings of inadequacy and your struggle to believe His Word. Ask Him to help you have faith that you are forgiven and that you are not under condemnation. Our enemy is called the “Accuser of the Brethren” for a reason. He is a liar. Repel his lies with Truth.
- We shouldn’t use confession as some sort of “get out of jail free” card. Your forgiveness is free for you, yes, but it cost your Savior His very life. When I start to feel this way about confession, it is a sign I need to return to my first love. Read about Christ’s crucifixion– both in Scriptures and in historical descriptions of what it was like to be crucified. Think about why He did that. The reason was His love for you, in spite of your sin, in spite of your antagonistic stance toward Him. We should never take that for granted.
- We shouldn’t confess just so we can check it off the list and move on. Sometimes I come to my times of confession and I really can’t think of anything specific I need to deal with. This is a good time to pray Scripture. I usually pray Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me. And then I sit for a moment and give God a chance to bring something up. And if He doesn’t, I move on. Or I spend a little extra time confessing my love for Him, my need for Him, my faith.
- We shouldn’t confess only sin. I mean, obviously this is what we usually think of when we think of confession, and that’s awesome. We need to deal with our sin, and we need to do it every day. Think back to that wall analogy I mentioned earlier– it’s going to be a lot easier to get rid of a couple bricks than to have to bring in a bulldozer because I waited a really long time to deal with my sin. However. Some of my sweetest times of communion with God have been in confession of my need, not of my sin. It is not a sin to need God– it’s how He created us. He is the only One who can fill that need. Sometimes we fail to recognize our need, and we need to remind ourselves. Confession is an amazing time to talk to God about our need– for wisdom, for assurance, for His presence, for Him. Think about the longing expressed by the Psalmists– As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for You, oh Lord. Jesus said He was Living Water and the Bread of Life. He is life itself, and we cannot make it a day without Him. Confess your need for Him, and ask Him to meet that need in new ways in your life, and watch how He works.
My time of confession is usually the longest section in my daily prayer time. I have prayed, confessing my sin, and experienced peace. I have prayed, confessing my confusion, and have had the name of exactly the right person pop into my head– the person God had chosen to help me in that situation. I have prayed, confessing my desperation, and glanced up to my open Bible and seen a promise that was exactly what I needed in that moment. I have wept my way through many a time of confession and come away from it with a deeper understanding of my Savior, His unbelievable grace, and His plan for the next little step in my life.
He is so good. So gracious. He loves you. Don’t approach confession with fear. Perfect love casts out fear. You will never find condemnation at the throne of grace– you will find a High Priest who knows your temptations and your sorrows, a Spirit who prays what you should when you can’t find the words, and a Father who loves you and welcomes you as His beloved child.
Adore Him. Confess to Him. And expect great things from your great God.