(This is part two in a series, you can see part 1 here
Confessing sin and asking for forgiveness is an important part of daily prayer. This is so, If for no other reason, because Jesus included it as part of the Lord’s prayer.
Matthew 6:12 (ESV) And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
There is a sense in which Christ followers are forgiven of all sin at the moment of salvation. That is justification. But forgiveness is one of many aspects of the Christian experience that has an already/not yet aspect to it. That is, believers experience forgiveness of sins and are made positionally clean before the Lord at the moment of salvation. However, we still sin and still need to confess and ask for forgiveness. This is not a contradiction to the first aspect . Then in the end, we will be completely saved from sin, at the moment of glorification, when we will be made fully like Jesus, as alluded to in 1 John:
1 John 3:2 (ESV) 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
There are many places in scripture to turn for help in prompting confession. I provide many for you here. One of the most well known is 1 John 1:9:
1 John 1:9 (ESV) 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
This is unambiguous. God calls us, invites us, to confess our sins. To confess sin means to agree with God about our sin, to say the same thing about our sin as God says about it. If we do this, then God is faithful. He will act, he will be true to his word. He is also just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. How can God be just in doing this? Is this tied to our ability to remember all our sins and meticulously confess them? No. God is just in forgiving us because of what Paul explains here in Romans.
Romans 8:3–4 (ESV)3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Part of the transaction of coming to faith in Christ as Jesus takes upon himself our sin is that we get credit for the perfect life Jesus lived. The righteous requirements of the law have been fulfilled in us through Jesus life and death. God is just, perfectly true to his nature in forgiving us only on the basis of Christ.
Here’s an example of my own confession: (it may seem lame, but i was genuinely convicted about this)
O God, I have sinned in the way I have handled this very post I am writing now. I promised this weeks ago. I am grieved at promising more than I can deliver. I am grieved by my inconsistency. I am troubled by my lack of ability to follow through as you have called me to do, to be faithful. I confess to you my sin. I plead for your forgiveness. Please cleanse me. Wash me O God, you are the one I need.
Here’s a process for confession:
- Choose one passage from this list
- Read it silently, out loud, or my favorite, rewrite it.
- Confess sin which the passage prompts or which I remember.
- Ask for forgiveness using some of the rich biblical language for this (listed here)
- Probe for un-forgiveness in me and seek God’s help in forgiving
- Move to thanksgiving for God’s amazing grace in forgiving me.
I’d love to hear about your experience with these prayer helps or your own practice of confession.