If you are like me, you might tend to see prayer as a list of requests for God. I always envisioned prayer warriors as checking off a long list of petitions about people, churches, government, etc., but it is so much more. Just like my conversations with my husband are not just about asking him to do things for me, our conversations with God involve enjoying His presence, agreeing with Him, and more.
In last Friday’s blog, I shared Priscilla Shirer’s prayer outline and encouraged you to make your own based on a simple acronym:
- Praise (basking in His presence, thanking Him for His gifts, blessing His name)
- Repentance (seeing yourself as God sees you, confessing where you fall short of His holiness)
- Asking (boldly asking for what you need)
- Yes (agreeing with God by praying His Word back to Him)
Honestly, I would love to skip over this point. Nobody likes to visit their dirty laundry everyday. Yuck! I would rather keep the lid on that stinky hamper and pretend it doesn’t exist! But I can’t; nor can you. Repentance is crucial to the effectiveness of our prayers for many reasons…
Repentance ensures that God hears our prayers.
“If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” –Psalm 66:18 NIV
When we refuse to give up a bad habit or deny our own wrongdoing in a conflict, God has no obligation to listen. When we stubbornly cling to a pet sin, no matter how socially acceptable, we erect a barrier between us and God.
Repentance protects our moral purity.
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” –Psalm 51:1-2 ESV
At the Lifeway Women’s Forum last November, Eric Geiger spoke about the importance of repentance in our ministries as he covered Psalm 51 (David’s prayer of repentance after he committed adultery and murder). Eric proposed that David never would have had to write Psalm 51 after Bathsheba if he had prayed it before he saw Bathsheba. He encouraged us to live in a spirit of repentance so that “small” sins can be removed before they become life-destroying and prayer-hindering.
Repentance enables us to reach others for Christ.
“Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.” –Psalm 51:13 ESV
Our oldest daughter is learning the tedious subject of logic this year. One of her recent lessons was about “if–then”. If one thing is true, then this other thing is true also. One day as I was reading this passage, the “then” jumped out at me. What was the “if”? The “if” required for the “then” is the previous twelve verses about repentance. Over and over, David asks for forgiveness for his sins, begging for mercy. Humbly, he acknowledges that sin permeates his very core. Then he pleads with God to cleanse his heart, renew his spirit, and restore the joy found in forgiveness. Repentance gives us the power to teach sinners and point them to God.
Many of us are praying for effectiveness in ministry–the ability to reach others for Christ. Are we working against our prayers? Or are we empowering them by our own confession?
But I’m a decent person! What do I repent of?
Recently a couple of us read The Daniel Prayer by Anne Graham Lotz. In this powerful book about prayer, Anne borrows and adapts a list of sins from writer Charles Finney (pages 125-128). She encourages her readers to read over it multiple times, asking God to reveal sins that need to be confessed. This process may take days or even weeks as God shines His light on our dark places. I will now borrow from Anne and share a snapshot of it here. Ask God to show you which of these sins are present in your life.
- Loss of love for God
- Neglecting Bible reading and study
- Not believing God (His word, His promises, etc.)
- Neglecting prayer
- Not being concerned about others (and their eternal destiny)
- Neglecting family
- Loving our present life too much
- Jealousy of others (their successes, possessions, talents, etc.)
- Criticizing others (even when we don’t verbalize it)
- Neglecting time with God, giving Him our left-overs
- Losing your temper
- Hurting another’s faith or confidence
It can be scary to let God shine the light of His Spirit on the dark, hidden places of our hearts. It’s so much easier to close the doors and pretend those ugly sins don’t exist. But then we stay stuck where we are. We gain no victory against our sin and our enemy. We lose effectiveness for God’s kingdom. We erect a self-imposed barrier between ourselves and God.
Be brave. Face your sin and allow God to cleanse your hearts.
You will have no regrets. And your prayers will be answered like never before.
“Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin…Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” –Psalm 51:2, 7 ESV