Is something dragging you down? Do you feel like you’re lugging around some hefty weight or unwieldy burden, but you can’t quite put your finger on the problem? We are quick to identify how circumstances and the actions of other people can hold us back or get us in a funk. It often takes us longer to acknowledge the struggles we have brought upon ourselves. It’s much easier to nitpick somebody else’s speck than it is to deal with our own plank (Mt 7:3-5). Fortunately, God has a Plank Removal System in place called “REPENTANCE”. It’s not fun, but it sure makes running your race a lot easier! Let’s dig in.
THE 4 A’s of REPENTANCE
This post is an expansion of a section in my prayer guide e-book. (It’s a free download. you can snag your copy here.) If you are following along with us in the The Lord’s Prayer, we have come to the part where we say, “Forgive our debts.” This process is so much richer than just mumbling a couple of things we regret messing up. It actually starts by asking God what He thinks, not of our performance, but of our hearts. I came up with an easy way to remember everything I wanted to pray about in this section. I named four steps that all begin with A:
This process is so much richer than just mumbling a couple of things we regret messing up. It actually starts by asking God what He thinks, not of our performance, but of our hearts.
I came up with an easy way to remember everything I wanted to pray about in this section. I named four steps that all begin with A:
- ABOUT FACE
Let me explain what I mean by each of these.
1. ASK God to search our hearts & reveal anything He wants to bring to light. (SUBMISSION)
It is not up to us to dredge up every misstep, failure, or selfish thing we’ve done and dwell on it. The purpose of confession is never self-loathing, but always restoration. We ask God to search us, to shine His loving light on every corner of our existence. We allow Him to reveal to us what He wants to restore within us.
But who can discern their own errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.
Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
~ Psalm 19:12-14, NIV
We open ourselves for God to show us two types of failure of which we may be guilty.
Sins of Commission—what we shouldn’t do but did.
These are usually the more obvious errors that first come to mind when we think “sin”.
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
~ Psalm 139:23-24
Sins of Omission—what we should have done but didn’t.
These are often less obvious than sins of commission, but no less damaging.
Therefore, anyone who knows what is right but fails to do it is guilty of sin.
~ James 4:17, ISV
This could be failing to:
seek God first
love one another
help another person
resist the devil and reject his lies
study God’s Word
provide for our family
respond to a nudge from Holy Spirit
be bold and courageous
pray instead of worry
use words to build others up
fellowship with other believers . . .
When God deals lovingly with our failures, He is much more focused on the attitude of our hearts and minds than on our outward actions.
The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.
~ 1 Samuel 16:7 (NLT)
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, you’ve done your part to earn my forgiveness when you hung on the cross. Now, I plead you help me do my part. Shine your pure and loving light on all my errors that I may confess them, agreeing with you that they are wrong. Then you will cleanse me from within and empower my resolve to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with you (Micah 6:8)
2. AGREE with everything He chooses to uncover. (CONFESSION).
Next, we agree with what He shows us. The Greek word we translate as “confess” means to “agree, admit, acknowledge”. So, literally, confession is simply saying, “Yep. You’re right God. “ and then letting Him redeem all that is ugly, unhelpful, and useless in our lives.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
~ 1 John 1:8
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.
~ Psalm 51:4
PRAYER: Lord, I confess wrong things I have done, as well as the good and right things I have left undone. I renounce all thoughts, attitudes, and feelings within me that fall short of the inner life you desire for me. I know you are even more concerned with my inner heart & motivations than my outward actions.
Father, I confess my:
worry & anxiety
apathy & indifference
hurtful words I’ve said
unkind thoughts I’ve had
Pride (position, character, job, wealth & resources, talents, strengths, appearance, spiritual, intelligence, education, opportunities, successes, abilities . . . Cure pride by giving God the glory for them all!)
unbelief in your Word – who you say you are and what you will do
lack of confidence in you
things I know better than to do, but did anyway
wasting time, money, or other valuable resources
failing to make the most of every opportunity you entrust to me
trying to serve you and money at the same time
worshiping my career or ministry
listening to and passing on gossip and rumors
giving begrudgingly or not at all
seeking to please people rather than you
trying to reach my goals by human effort alone
trusting in many other things besides you
blaming others for my own faults and failures
grumbling & complaining
failing to pray for my enemies and reach out to them in love
taking sides, widening divisions, and eroding Christian unity
speaking any words that fall short of honoring you and building others up
treating your grace as though it were cheap and cost you little
failing to do the good I know I ought to do
thinking I know how to run my life better than you do
allowing my thoughts to run wild without bringing them captive and making them obey
looking elsewhere for provision, protection, purpose, love, significance, acceptance, validation
God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
~ Luke 18:13
Own the responsibility for your wrong-doing and ACCEPT any CONSEQUENCES that result from your attitudes and actions.
3. ABOUT FACE and redirect your thoughts and actions so you don’t continue to drift off course. (REPENTANCE)
It’s never too late to turn around and choose a better way. If we don’t like where our choices have led us, by God’s grace and power, we can start making better choices right now. We don’t have to wait for a special invitation or a particular situation.
Could you be worn out and weary because you are trying to run through your life with the dead weight of unconfessed sins tied around your ankles? Just throw it off and run unfettered toward the purpose God has for you!
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Psalm 51:10-12, ESV
PRAYER: Lord, I confess my sins and claim victory over them in your name. Recreate my heart. Grant me a clean slate. I seek a godly attitude toward the people and circumstances in my life and a right spirit toward you. O God, I need you every minute. Don’t remove your presence from me. Stay close. Restore my joy. Sin has stolen my joy for too long. I want it back. As a child of God, I claim the joy that is rightfully mine because of all you’ve done for me. I cannot save myself. I am dependent on you to rescue me from my sins. Fill me with a desire to follow you always.
If applicable and possible, examine how you can repay or compensate the person you sinned against. (RESTITUTION) Ask God for ideas.
4. ACCEPT the forgiveness He offers in exchange for your confession. Choose to forgive yourself. (RESTORATION)
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins
and purify us from all unrighteousness.
~ 1 John 1:9
May your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need.
~ Psalm 79:8b
PRAYER: There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Therefore, I am free from the burden of condemnation because I belong to you (Ro 8:1). You have removed my sin from me as far as the east is from the west (Ps 103:12). You won’t keep bringing it up and waving it in my face (Heb 8:12) and neither should I. I won’t beat myself up over my errors. You already took the beating for me. It is done. I am healed from my sin. (Is 53:5) Help me move forward full of confidence in your unfailing mercy and grace (Heb 4:16).
Lord, I receive your forgiveness into the deepest places of my soul. I allow it to soak in. Sometimes the hardest one to forgive is myself. To say my sin is too ugly for you to forgive is to call your grace insufficient. It is an insult to all you have sacrificed on our behalf. You have willingly forgiven. Let us not be insolent and refuse to forgive ourselves. It may sound pious, but it’s just another form of rebellion.
Lord, help me forgive myself. Sometimes, this is the hardest part for me.
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.
And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit
has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.
~ Romans 8:1, NLT
I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist.
Return to me, for I have redeemed you.
~ Isaiah 44:22, NIV
End your time of confession and repentance by thanking Him for His forgiveness, mercy, grace, and acceptance. Prepare your heart to share that same forgiveness, mercy, and grace with others as you continue “Forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors . . . “
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.
May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
~ 1 Thessalonians 5:23
But wait, there’s more! See all the free printables to add to your prayer guide here.