Sunday, February 13, 2005


I have a confession to make: I'm not good at making confessions. It's definitely not on my top 10 list of favorite activities. To be honest, it's probably the element of prayer where I most fall short.

I'm not sure exactly why that is; pride certainly plays a factor. But I also think that for so long I have not recognized the importance of confession. It's not that I think of myself as perfect or sinless--believe me, I know I'm not! There are just so many times that I launch into prayer, full of praise and adoration and thanksgiving and requests, but I leave out confession, not deliberately but because I have not given it much thought. Lately I've been convicted that confession is a necessary factor in our prayers, in our worship to God.

The Bible clearly connects confession with forgiveness and healing. Throughout the Old Testament, whenever God was fed up with the rebellious Israelites and ready to destroy them, He always relented whenever they recognized their sinful ways and confessed them to God.

In Psalm 32, David talks of the suffering he faced when failing to confess his sin: "When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the Lord'--and you forgave the guilt of my sin."

Confession is again described as a key element to healing in James 5: "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."

When I fail to confess my sins--and I mean confess them in a specific, deliberate way, not a quick "Please forgive my sins" glossing-over--am I not limiting the effectiveness of my prayers?

Sometimes when I DO confess, to God and to others, I find myself making excuses. Just last week I blogged about having a bad day and blaming it on hormones run amok. Regardless of hormone levels, stormy weather or traffic jams, I had the choice of whether or not to be short-tempered, grouchy, irritable.

John Ortberg speaks of this in his book The Life You've Always Wanted. He writes:

"At the heart of it, confession involves taking appropriate responsibility for what we have done. This is not easy to do. We try to slip out of it. What starts as a confession often ends up an excuse. 'I didn't mean to yell at you; I was having a bad day.'

"To confess means to own up to the fact that our behavior wasn't just the result of bad parenting, poor genes, jealous siblings, or a chemical imbalance from too many Twinkies. Any or all of those factors may be involved. Human behavior is a complex thing. But confession means saying that somewhere in the mix was a choice, and the choice was made by us, and it does not need to be excused, explained, or even understood. The choice needs to be forgiven. The slate has to be wiped clean."

There is something awesomely powerful about being forgiven by someone who truly knows you and who knows what you've done. God obviously knows everything about me and every sin I've ever committed and ever will. When I openly, specifically confess my sins to Him, I recognize that I have wronged Him, and that He is so incredibly merciful to offer His forgiveness to me. That gift of His unmerited favor should keep me from wanting to commit those sins again--not that I can fully achieve that, but I become more and more aware of how I do sin against Him, which leads to confession, which leads to healing...the cycle continues.

What are your thoughts on confession? How do you keep it a consistent part of your own prayer time? How can the church as a whole make confession just as important in our worship as praise and thanksgiving?

1 comment:

Karen said...

Thank you for this post. John Ortberg's book sounds like it would be a good read. I really agree with his point about owning up to our sins/mistakes without making excuses for them. Why do we find it so hard to admit we were wrong without giving a reason why?? I think sometimes it starts when our children are young and we make allowances for their behavior by saying, "He's tired," "She's hungry," etc. 30 years later, our children use those same excuses for yelling at their spouses, using profanity, and a host of other things they wouldn't do in "ordinary circumstances." We could all do better to admit we just sometimes make lousy choices for which we are sorry, and leave it at that. Otherwise, we don't sound remorseful at all, just that someone was unlucky enough to have been around us at the wrong time.